UNTV. OF CALIF. LIBRARY, LOS ANGELES
IT S A
GOOD OLD WORLD
IT S A
GOOD OLD WORLD
BEING A COLLECTION OF LITTLE ESSAYS
ON VARIOUS SUBJECTS OF
Author of "More Power to You," "The
Making of George Groton," etc.
THE CENTURY CO.
Copyright, 1920, by
THE CENTURY Co.
Magazine editors are genial gentle
men. They pay us for the pieces we write
and allow us to gather them later into
books. To Karl Harriman, editor of the
" Red Book" ; George Martin, editor of
"Farm and Fireside"; Harford Powel,
editor of "Collier s Weekly"; W. W.
Hawkins, General Manager of the United
Press Associations, and Frank Ober, edi
tor of " Association Men," who have given
their cordial permission for the republica-
tion of the little essays that follow, I ex
press my gratitude and thanks.
The book is named in honor of our
common friend, this Good Old World.
I admire the quiet, patient fashion in
which he goes around about the same old
task, day after day and year after year.
I admire his magnificent tolerance toward
all sorts and conditions of men, many of
whom must frequently prove very irritat
ing passengers. And I want him to un
derstand that if he has no objection I plan
to ride along with him for another sev
enty years at least.
I EXPECT TO BE ENTIRELY CONSISTENT AFTER
WATCHING THE PRINCE EARN His PAY .... 7
A GREAT LITTLE WORD Is " WHY " 12
DON T LAY IN A STOCK OF CAMOUFLAGE: IT HAS
DEPRECIATED BADLY IN VALUE SINCE THE WAR 17
WE RE ALL IN THE SAME BOAT: AND CAN T GET
"WHAT! LITTLE JOHNNY DUGAN?" .... 27
FIRST HAVE A LOOK AT THE FIGURES 31
WHY NOT USE OUR ISLAND OF YAP? .... 35
THE SECOND MILE 39
" WHICH KNEW NOT JOSEPH " 43
HE CALLED THE PRESIDENT " CHARLEY "... 47
A COURSE OF READING FOR A YOUNG MAN ABOUT
TO RUN INTO DEBT 51
ON MEETING AN INSIGNIFICANT MAN .... 54
IT S A MOVING PICTURE WORLD, AND THE FILM
CHANGES EVERY FEW MINUTES 58
ARE You INDUSTRIOUS, OR MERELY BUSY? ... 63
IF You ARE NOT TOO CAREFUL WHO GETS THE
THE REFLECTIONS OF A GRIZZLED VOTER ... 73
" THEY SAY " HAS MADE MANY A GOOD MAN GOOD .
FOR NOTHING 78
You HAVE KNOWN ABOUT HIM ALL THESE YEARS,
BUT HAVE You REALLY KNOWN HIM ? . . . 83
BE SURE YOU RE RIGHT AND THEN DON T Do IT 87
I HAVE ALWAYS HAD A SOFT SPOT IN MY HEART
FOR JOSEPH 91
"AND HE GOETH" 95
"!N A MANGER" 99
WHY YOUR EYES ARE IN THE FRONT OF YOUR
WOULD You BE GREAT? THEN EXPECT SUFFER
ING: FOR IT Is THE STUFF GREATNESS Is
MADE OF 107
IF THERE WERE ONLY A TAX ON TALK . . . . in
THE GREAT GOD "MUST" 115
PUT GREAT MEN TO WORK FOR You: IT DOESN T
COST ANYTHING 119
HEZEKIAH Is DEAD: BUT His FORMULA STILL
HOLDS GOOD 123
THE FINE RARE HABIT OF LEARNING TO DO WITH
IT RUINED MICHELANGELO: AND IT CAN RUIN
DON T EXPECT ANYTHING VERY STARTLING FROM
AN ORACLE 136
ON HEARING FROM MANY UNHAPPY HVSBANDS AND
WHAT MAKES MEDIUM-SIZED MEN GREAT? . . . 145
THE GREATEST SPORTING PROPOSITION IN THE
To A CAN OF BEANS PLANTED AND CANNED BY
LINCOLN PULLED THROUGH AND So SHALL WE . -157
"THEY WHO TARRY BY THE STUFF" . . . .162
THAT FINE OLD FAKE ABOUT THE GOOD OLD DAYS . 166
EVERYBODY HAS SOMETHING 170
WORKING FOR IT AND MAKING IT WORK . . . 174
WHEN MEN COME UP TO THE END 178
IF You CAN T FALL IN LOVE WITH YOUR JOB, FOR
GOODNESS SAKE CHANGE IT 182
THE BUSINESS OF DISTRIBUTING MEDALS HAS
RATHER GOT INTO A RUT 186
THE FINEST INVESTMENT You CAN MAKE Is TO
HELP THE RIGHT YOUNG MAN FIND THE RIGHT
THE WORLD Is OWNED BY MEN WHO CROSS BRIDGES
BEFORE THEY COME TO THEM 195
WE SHALL WIN IF OUR SENSE OF HUMOR LASTS 199
LIVING IN A LIMOUSINE AND LIVING IN A TUB . . 203
DEMOCRACY Is A NEW SHOW, AND EVERY CITIZEN Is
THE STAGE-MANAGER 207
Is YOUR CONVERSATION A GOOD ADVERTISEMENT FOR
AND A DOG RUNS OUT AND BARKS . 216
IT S A GOOD OLD WORLD
IT S A GOOD OLD WORLD
I EXPECT TO BE ENTIRELY
A READER writes to reprove me be
cause a statement in a recent edi
torial apparently contradicts something
which I wrote a year ago.
" A writer ought at least to be consist
ent," he says. Which, of course, is the
last thing that any writer below the age
of ninety < ought to be too much con
For it is the business of men, whether
writers or not, to see truth and to express
it in their lives. That a man should see
more truth this year than he saw last, and
should hope to see even more in the year
to come, is a perfectly normal expectation.
And inevitably the larger vision of this
year will reveal the shortcomings of the
4 It s a Good Old World
I talked the other day with the president
of one of the nation s greatest businesses.
" I go down to my office these days with
my mind absolutely open ; I am prepared at
a moment s notice to reverse our entire
business practice, if the conditions demand
it. With the world in tumult as it is to
day, the concern which says, We have al
ways done it this way, or Such and such
a course is not in line with our previous
policy, is riding for a fall.
" A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin
of little minds," Emerson exclaimed.
" With consistency a great soul has simply
nothing to do. He may as well concern
himself with his shadow on the wall. Out
upon your guarded lips! ... If you
would be a man, speak what you think to
day in words as hard as cannon-balls, and
to-morrow speak what to-morrow thinks
in hard words again, though it contradict
everything you said to-day. Ah, then,
exclaim the aged ladies, you shall be sure
to be misunderstood! Misunderstood!
It is a fool s word. Is it so bad, then, to
Consistent After Ninety 5
be misunderstood? Pythagoras was mis
understood, and Socrates, and Jesus and
Copernicus and Galileo and Newton and
every pure and wise spirit that ever took
flesh. To be great is to be misunder
The butterfly is not consistent with the
chrysalis: nobody expects a frog to con
form to the standards of the tadpole.
Nature is herself the great parent of con
tradictions; and nothing in her universe is.
perfectly consistent but the eternal hills,
and old dogs who lie all day in the sun
shine, and men whose brains have hardened
A man owes this obligation to himself
that he should keep his vision high and his
footsteps fixed in the path that leads to
ward the stars. Sometimes that path will
lie straight and clear; sometimes it will
bend to the left or right; and sometimes he
may have to retrace his steps in order to
fix his feet firmly upon it. When that
necessity arises, there should be no hesita
I like to remember Dr. David Swing,
6 It s a Good Old World
who was for many years pastor of the
Brick Presbyterian Church on Fifth Ave
nue. Through a long lifetime he ex
pounded the truth to his people as his spirit
revealed it to him. And at the very end of
his days new truth came to him, and he
rose in his pulpit and confessed frankly
that all of his previous preaching had been
in large measure mistaken.
St. Augustine, toward the end of his
career, published a good-sized book called
" Retractions." Only a big man could
have written such a book; for only a big
man continues to grow straight up to the
Be not too fearful of inconsistencies-;
for if you are growing as you should be
growing, consistency, which is the harden
ing of the mental and spiritual arteries,
ought not to set in
until you are ninety, at least.
WATCHING THE PRINCE EARN
THE Prince was to ride up the Avenue,
and we all put on our hats and went
out onto the side-walk to cheer.
As he came along smiling, with his hat
on the side of his head, I could not help
marvelling a little at the changes time can
My first ancestor in this country,
William, spent several of the best years of
his life fighting the Prince s ancestor,
For many, many years dislike and dis
trust of the English were fed to us from
the pages of our first readers.
Emerson s poem expressed the common
American judgment about the gentlemen
who sit on thrones:
God said " I am tired of Kings,
I suffer them no more.
Up to my ear the morning brings
The outrage of the poor."
Yet here was I, the descendant of a
Revolutionary fighter, taking time away
from the office to cheer for the son of a
King, and an English King at that.
The explanation, of course, is simple.
It is not we who have changed, but the
kings. They have at last found a real job
for themselves, and we respect them, as
we respect any man who has work to do
and does it well.
They are now the travelling salesmen
of their countries.
Take the Belgians for example. Be
fore the war we looked on them as a rather
unattractive people inclined to squalidness
both physical and mental.
Along comes Albert, their sales man
ager, with his sample case and opens it be
fore us. He has a fine line of courtesy;
something very nice in the way of true
sportsmanship; a very superior article of
good looks; and an entirely modern and
up-to-date sense of humor.
After we have seen the samples it is no
great task for him to sell us quite a differ
ent idea of the Belgians. We will be
Watching the Prince 9
much more inclined, in the future, to give
them what every people have the right to
demand the privilege of being judged
by their best rather than by their less at
So with Edward of the firm of Great
Britain and Co.
He knows well enough that our dealings
with his House have not been altogether
satisfactory in the past. He comes with
the idea of straightening out all the old
complaints and convincing us that this
year s line is entirely unlike anything we
have previously bought.
Are we too much stocked-up with the
old style Englishman side whiskers
prejudices stodginess lack of humor
" That s our pre-war brand," says Ed
ward. " We Ve entirely discarded that.
The House is under new management and
we re putting out a very superior article.
" Here s a sample of our smiles you
never knew an Englishman could smile.
" Here s a choice bit of democracy
which we Ve recently added to the line.
10 It s a Good Old World
" Notice this patent bit of openmind-
edness, an exclusive feature of this year s
He s a good little salesman with a win
ning smile; and I for one am all prepared
to put the old prejudices aside and open a
good line of credit with his House.
I know a man who has a curious job.
He is paid just to visit conventions and
banquets of his company s customers and
tell funny stories.
No spasm of economy ever endangers
his weekly envelope. He is one of the
most valuable assets that the corporation
That s the proper kind of a job for a
king. Japan should send her Emperor
sales-manager over as soon as possible.
Alphonso of Spain would find this a very
profitable territory. Italy s Victor Em-
nanuel had better pack his bag and get
some expense account blanks printed.
And we, who have no kings, should elect
a half dozen good looking chaps with a
Roosevelt smile and a first class fund of
funny stories to show our customers across
Watching the Prince II
the two oceans what a fine lot of folks we
The League of Nations will be success
ful just in proportion to the amount of in
telligent high-powered salesmanship that
is put behind it.
Every king should plan to live half the
time in a suit case; and every Prince, no
matter what his title, should consider that
he draws his salary for being a Prince of
A GREAT LITTLE WORD IS
" WHY "
A SUCCESSFUL man whom I know
recently changed from a business
with which he was thoroughly familiar to
a business that he knew absolutely nothing
I watched to see what he would do.
For two solid weeks he did nothing but
He took a train to Washington to learn
what information the government had on
trade conditions in the new field.
He visited around among jobbers and
manufacturers: he even went to the com
pany s strongest competitors.
Everywhere asking questions. It was
simply amazing, the amount of useful data
that he was able to dig out.
Curiosity is a human characteristic that
has been much maligned. Men speak of
it slightingly, as if it were something to be
A Great Word Is "Why" 13
ashamed of; a weakness to be repressed.
My own idea is that when a man gets
beyond the point of asking questions, he
might as well be dead.
Without curiosity there would be no
growth, no progress.
Theirs not to make reply,
Theirs not to reason why,
may be a good enough motto for men who
are on their way to be shot. But from
such men expect no empires to be builded,
no inventions made, no great discoveries
brought to light.
Curiosity [the " Scientific American " once
said] is the hand-maiden of Science.
No doubt many a man before the time of
Columbus had remarked the exotic fruits and
branches tossed up by the waves on the shores
of the Canary Islands. The natives had gath
ered them for generations without ever so much
as a thought. But to Columbus those strange
gifts of the sea were messages sent from a land
where no European ship had ever touched. Out
of his wonder about them came his voyage to
the New World.
14 It s a Good Old World
Then we have Newton s apple. Things have
fallen ever since the universe was created. And
no man before Newton seems ever to have asked
Robert Meyer, a ship s surgeon in the East
Indies, noticed that the venous blood of his pa
tients seemed redder than that of people living in
temperate climates. Doubtless other physicians
had also noticed that fact. Meyer, pondering
on it, reached the conclusion that the cause must
be the lesser degree of oxidation required to keep
up the body temperature in the torrid zone.
That thought led to the discovery of the me
chanical theory of heat, and to the first compre
hensive appreciation of the great law of the con
servation of energy.
If you have witnessed the gradual prog
ress of the mind of a little baby, you have
seen a miracle.
And what is the golden ladder on which
the baby climbs out of mere consciousness
Curiosity nothing else. The con
stant reaching out for the untried (even
though the reaching involves much up
setting of flower vases, and many burned
A Great Word Is "Why" 15
and bleeding fingers) , the eternal why: the
unquenchable how and what.
Some men climb a little way up that lad
der, and are satisfied.
They reach a point where the day s task
becomes more or less automatic; where
their feet follow easily along a familiar
path. And they are content. They
would not pay a nickel to see an earth
quake : they would not open a new book,
or stretch their minds in wonder at what
lies even beyond the next desk above them,
to say nothing of what lies beyond the
Ceasing to be curious, they cease to
For surely one secret of genius is this
the ability to remain interested in new
things, even into old age.
The curiosity of Bluebeard s wife proved
fatal, to be sure ; and Lot s wife, yielding
to her curiosity, reaped a bitter recom
One must use judgment in the exercise
of even the divinest gifts.
On the other hand,
1 6 It s a Good Old World
Did climb a tree,
His Lord to see.
And, braving the ridicule of the passing
crowd for the sake of his curiosity, he was
rewarded with the secret of happiness and
DON T LAY IN A STOCK OF CA
MOUFLAGE: IT HAS DEPRE
CIATED BADLY IN VALUE
SINCE THE WAR
THE future of Germany, I presume, is
no particular concern of mine. Yet
I keep thinking what a tragic position hers
must be for many years to come.
Some day, soon or late, Germany, with
the others, will send out her ambassadors
to the world.
He will come to Washington Herr
von Somebody, and, smiling graciously,
will tell us how eager his government is to
resume friendly relations with us.
And all the time he is talking it will be
running through the back of our minds:
Yes, that is what Von Bernstorff said, at
the same time when he was trying to blow
up our factories, and league Japan and
Mexico against us."
Another German ambassador will go to
Buenos Aires. " I present the compli-
i8 It s a Good Old World
ments of the German government," he will
And the President of Argentina will be
wondering to himself: " Is this the same
government whose envoy suggested that
our boats be sunk so as to leave no trace ? "
German salesmen will hurry out across
the world with their sample cases, protest
ing the value of their goods.
And men will wonder whether the state
ments behind those goods are like the state
ments made by the German government
to the United States when the Sussex was
Bitter as the days are for Germany
now, the days to come will be more bit
For her government ruthlessly tor
pedoed the good ship Faith: it cut the
cables of mutual trust by means of which
men have been accustomed to communicate
with each other. And the rest of the
world stood aghast.
Few things in civilization are more in
spiring than the slow increase of men s
faith in one another.
A Stock of Camouflage 19
When the Psalmist exclaimed, " I said
in my haste, All men are liars," he was not
To lie, to cheat, to get the better of a
competitor by any hook or crook, was the
standard practice of early business.
The Phoenicians and Greeks, trading
with the tribes along the Mediterranean,
used to land on the shore, pile up their
goods, and then put out a little way in their
Out from their hiding place would come
the natives to pile up beside those goods
the articles which they offered in exchange,
and having done it they would hide them
Both sides wanted to do business, but
neither party trusted the members of the
other enough to appear beside them on the
In religion as well as business the rule of
fraud was the accepted rule.
" I will sacrifice ten heads to Zeus if I be
delivered from this sickness," the pious
Greek would exclaim.
And being delivered he would sacrifice
20 It s a Good Old World
cabbage heads instead of heads of cattle,
and receive the congratulations of his
friends upon the cleverness of his ruse.
Little by little the world has grown
away from this kind of practice.
As the coral reef grows by the addition
of one tiny organism after another, so has
Faith grown in the world each genera
tion raising it a bit higher by the addition
of its honesty and trust, until all business
has come to be done on men s confidence in
each other s words.
That slow, painfully wrought creation,
Germany with wanton hand demolished.
We have heard much talk of camou
flage, which is a fancy name for lying. Be
not misled by that euphonious term.
You will live to see a penalty visited on
Germany for the slaughter of Truth such
as has never been borne by any people
You will see men s word to each other
take on a new preciousness in the years to
come, because of the terrible price which
they will pay who have disregarded their
In our generation it will be true as it
never has been before that the highest
honors will be reserved for the sort of
man whom the Bible describes:
The man who " sweareth to his own
hurt, and changeth not."
WE RE ALL IN THE SAME BOAT:
AND CAN T GET OUT
AMERICA was founded by people
who wanted to get away from other
The Pilgrim Fathers decided that they
would rather run the risk of starving to
death in a new, clean, unpeopled land than
to live any longer with their neighbors.
After them came men of various sorts:
political offenders; Quakers who would
rather emigrate than fight; Irishmen
" ag in the government "; roving sons of
All sorts of people, but driven by the
same common motive the desire to live
their own lives in their own way, free from
the restrictions of an older social order.
We are the descendants of those daring
pioneers: their vigorous individualism
flows through our veins.
If, before the war, you had put your
We re All in the Same Boat 23
ambition into words, you would probably
have expressed the wish to be absolutely
I don t know what the war may have
done to you, but to me it has revealed this
one tremendous truth: that there is not,
and never will be again, any absolute in
dependence; that I, in my little home, am
absolutely dependent, to some degree or
other, on every other man and woman in
In the Balkans, an Austrian prince of
whom I never heard, and his wife, are mur
dered. A petty far-away event : what has
it to do with me?
Nothing, of course. Nothing ; except
to throw my life into disorder, and change
the whole thought and current of my days.
In Russia twenty million men are taken
from the farms; and, behold, the loaf of
bread in my little home feels their leaving
and fades away. Millions of shoes are
ordered for the men of Italy: and the
shoes I purchase for my baby cost four
dollars now instead of two.
Absolute independence ! What a fool-
24 It s a Good Old World
ish phrase, indeed! The world has be
come a neighborhood, and the welfare of
every single house along the street is con
ditioned by the welfare of every other.
There is hardly an item in the newspa
pers that doesn t, somehow or other, come
straight home to me.
I read that the railroads are hard up
and their stocks and bonds decline. I
should worry: I own no stocks or bonds.
Ah, but don t I, though? The savings
bank where my few dollars lie has invested
them in railroad bonds; the life-insurance
company that must look after my wife and
family if I die has invested its funds in
Whether I like it or not, the railroads
can not be hurt without hurting me : for
better or for worse, my prosperity is bound
up with theirs.
When the Apostle Paul was being sent
to Rome, the ship on which he sailed was
tossed by storms.
At the moment of greatest danger Paul
caught the sailors taking to the boats.
We re All in the Same Boat $
"Stop ! "he cried; and to the Centurion
" Except these abide in the ship, ye can
not be saved."
To-day the good ship World is being
tossed about by the greatest storm of its
And now, in the time of greatest dan
ger, I see some signs that are not good.
I see some capitalists taking to the boats
and saying to themselves: "We ll pull
out and play safe, no matter what may
happen to the ship."
I see some groups of labor taking to the
boats and saying to themselves: " When
the ship is sinking is a good time to strike
for higher pay."
And if the lesson of the war means any
thing, it seems to me to mean just this :
That the time has passed in the world
when any single group of men can ad
vance its interests permanently at the ex
pense of the common good.
Unless all of us, rich and poor, stick to
gether in the ship, then all of us are lost.
26 It s a Good Old World
Individualism, as we used to understand
it, is dead.
" God hath made of one blood all na
tions." The same great life-giving cur
rent flows through the veins of every class
and race and people everywhere. And
the only way to advance the interests of
any class permanently is to purify and
strengthen the stream of life that ministers
That, it seems to me, is one great lesson
of this war.
"WHAT! LITTLE JOHNNY
I VISITED once the boyhood home of
a great man.
His name will not go down in the his
tories, but he has made a high place for
himself in his profession; and in every
city important people are glad to be
counted among his friends.
I spoke of this to one of the residents
of the village who occupied a reserved seat
in front of the livery stable.
" It must be a matter of great pride to
your town to have produced a man like
that," I said.
" You mean Joe Hinkle? " he answered.
I nodded, and he uttered a scornful lit
" Folks hereabouts don t think so much
of Joe Hinkle," he commented. " We
never supposed he d amount to anything.
Why, gosh, I knew him when he was run-
28 It s a Good Old World
nin around with his pants held up by one
I found more than one man in that com
munity to echo the sentiment. They could
not quit6 reconcile themselves to the
thought that a boy who had been one of
themselves should have travelled so far
Some years ago a song was popular in
the vaudeville houses. It recounted the
achievement of a certain John Dugan; and
after each stanza the chorus broke in with
an incredulous exclamation, " What! Lit
tle Johnny Dugan?"
" Little Johnny Dugan that little fel
low who used to be around here you don t
mean to tell me that he has been nominated
for Governor; or elected President of a
Bank or called to the Pastorate of a great
church. Not our little Johnny Dugan.
It can t be. Why we knew him when -
The song reflected accurately the atti
tude of too many home towns toward their
boys. Many great men have suffered
from that attitude: Jesus of Nazareth suf
fered, perhaps, most keenly of all.
" Little Johnny Dugan? 29
After He had begun His ministry; after
He had performed a few miracles in the
cities near at hand and gained a consider
able reputation, " He went back to Naz
areth where He had been brought up."
One can picture the anticipation with
which He turned His face in that direction.
He could imagine the warmth of His old
neighbors greeting; the pride they would
feel in His success which had brought
credit to the town.
But there was no warmth. Only skep
ticism and jealousy and scorn. It was as
if their faces cried:
" We know you. Why you re only the
son of the carpenter, Joseph. You may
have fooled them in Capernaum, but you
can t fool us."
And there were those among them
whose envy and bitterness would have led
them to hurl Him to death.
There are two ways to look at the folks
around us, and particularly the younger
One way is to get into the habit of re
garding them as just common people,
30 It s a Good Old World
destined to failure or to only mediocre
things; and to be surprised when they ex
ceed our expectations.
The other way is to form the habit of
thinking of them in the biggest and best
possible terms; of holding up the vision of
large achievement before them and letting
them understand that we expect them to
Whichever attitude we adopt we re
bound to suffer certain disappointments;
but personally I prefer to be disappointed
by news of failure rather than by news of
When I hear that Johnny Dugan has
been sent to jail for forgery I expect to ex
claim "What! Little Johnny Dugan?"
But when they tell me that the Repub
licans have nominated him for Governor
they need n t expect me to express surprise,
even though he has red hair and never
owned two suits of clothes as a boy.
Governor Johnny Dugan " Of course :
I always said you could n t keep that boy
FIRST HAVE A LOOK AT THE
AT the very beginning of the war Lord
Kitchener announced to his people
that it would last for at least three years.
I can remember now the editorial that
appeared in one of the most sedate and
respected of our newspapers, taking him to
task for his foolish statement. It was the
one-sided view of a purely military man,
said the editor. A three-years war was
unthinkable : the common sense of the
world would not permit it.
Kitchener is dead; but Kitchener was
He was not a very brainy man. On the
contrary, his teachers found him rather
dull and listless: men who conversed with
him were embarrassed by his mental slow
ness. I will venture to say that the editor
who wrote that article criticizing him was
far more than his equal in all-round intelli
gence. But Kitchener s teachers noted
32 It s a Good Old World
one bright spot in his otherwise indifferent
school-record : he was very good at mathe
I sometimes think there should have
been another Beatitude: Blessed are the
mathematicians, for they shall inherit the
It is the nature of us common folks to
live on hope instead of facts. The eyes
that we turn to the future are fitted with
rose-tinted glasses. We see coming events
shaping themselves as we would like to
have them shape themselves. The thing
that should be is the thing that will be, in
all our prophecies.
Those cynical gentlemen who make their
living on the stock-exchange recognize
that quality in us and trade upon it. The
public is always " bullish," in their par
lance by which they mean that every
common man of us believes that the shares
of stock which he has bought are sure some
day to sell higher. We hold on to our
shares, disregarding danger-signals, and
long after the professional has begun to
sell, we are buying still.
First Look at the Figures 33
One reason why the prophet is never
honored in his own country is that the
true prophet must so often foretell unpleas
ant things ; and the world does not like to
face unpleasant things.
Hope springs eternal in the human breast;
Man never is, but always to be blest.
No man among us would want to see
that divine spark of hopefulness lost out
of human character. Nevertheless in our
optimism we would do well to remember
this that hope based on hard facts, on
a willingness to face the truth, is a thou
sand times more useful than hope based on
nothing but other hopes.
"Read Luke xiv:3i," wired Cecil
Rhodes to Dr. Jameson before the latter
set out on his celebrated raid.
And Jameson, calling for a Bible, turned
to that verse and read:
Or what king, going to make war against an
other king, sitteth not down first and consulteth
whether he be able with ten thousand to meet
him that cometh against him with twenty thou
34 It s a Good Old World
It is a good verse to read occasionally in
days like these.
Apply it to your own affairs. Have
you had occasion lately to take account of
stock? Do you know in black and white
just what the chances for you and against
Suppose to-day you figure them up care
fully and courageously, giving the odds
against you full credit for their strength.
If you are the man you ought to be, you
will not be dismayed, no matter how strong
the adverse figures may appear.
Indeed, you will find fresh courage in
the fact that you have taken the full meas
ure of your enemies that the power
which you present against them is made
up not merely of hope, but of hope rein
forced and made vital by fact.
WHY NOT USE OUR ISLAND
OVER at Ellis Island they are holding
a big catch of anarchists and Bolshe
viks, waiting for a boat to Russia whose
owners don t care what kind of cargo it
They are not an attractive looking
Most of them were poor, oppressed ref
ugees fleeing from government or hunger
when they came to us. We took them in,
warmed them, fed them, gave them more
money than they had ever had before;
and while we were busy in the front yard,
beating off a mob of Germans, they stayed
behind in our home and plotted to destroy
the furniture, turn out the members of the
family and keep the house and all our pos
sessions for themselves.
That sort of ingratitude the utter
36 It s a Good Old World
lack of any moral sense is peculiarly ir
ritating. So our government thinks it
wise to send them back where they came
from lest we might some day lose our
self-control and be tempted to do them
It" is one solution of the situation, but
not a very satisfactory one. They will be
just as bad neighbors in any other country
and there is always the chance that they
may escape and appear in our midst again.
A far better way would be to deal with
them as Milton tells us the first Bolshe
viks were dealt with.
Things in Heaven were going pretty
well when a crowd of ungrateful spirits,
headed by a gentleman named Satan, de
cided to overthrow the government and
seize the kingdom for themselves.
They were defeated but no attempt was
made to imprison them.
Instead they were given a secluded
place all their own and allowed to do with
it as they would.
It, was an absolutely free place. No
one had to work; all authority was re-
Our Island of Yap 37
moved; there were none of the improve
ments that had existed in Heaven.
Of course they made a very distressing
discovery: they found that the worst pun
ishment that could be visited upon them
was the necessity of living with themselves.
"Which way I fly is Hell; myself am
Hell," Satan exclaimed. He would gladly
have made any surrender to get back to
the Heaven whose government he had
sought to overthrow. But the gate was
I understand we received a prize at the
Paris peace conference named the Island
of Yap. I have never seen it; I do not
know exactly where it is. But it sounds
like a fine place to send Bolsheviks.
Why not buy out the present inhabitants
and turn the Island over to the folks who
don t like the way we run things here and
are sure they could do it so much better?
Let them organize to suit themselves.
Have no house-rules except the rule that
no member may leave the island.
That seems to have been the divine plan
of dealing with their forebears. When
38 It s a Good Old World
they rebelled against the Heaven God was
conducting, He gave them a Heaven of
And they promptly made it Hell.
THE SECOND MILE
THERE is a strange fact about busi
ness that I have noticed many times.
It may be expressed in this apparently
A little too much is just enough.
A young man came to me yesterday to
tell me his boss had been fired.
I was sorry for the boss; glad for the
young man; and glad for myself. It
proved me, for once, a good prophet.
For the same young man had met me
three months ago and complained of his
lot. His boss was loafing on the job, he
said, leaving all the work of the depart
ment to him. " He gets the money, and
I do the work," the young man exclaimed.
"What shall I do?"
I told him to do more work.
" But I m doing too much already! " he
" I know it," I said. " Do more. Do
so much more that everybody in the office
will notice it. Then see what happens."
Well, it happened. The boss is fired:
and he has the boss s job.
I read a great deal of biography: it is
my favorite kind of reading. And noth
ing impresses me so much as to see how
hard the great men of the world have
Almost without exception, they have
done more work than they needed to do:
more work that the average man would
have been willing to do : more than
Take this extract from a book recently-
published the life of Delane, the great
editor of the London " Times."
He read and edited himself everything that
was to appear in the paper next morning
telegrams, correspondents letters, the reports of
Parliament. He selected the letters addressed to
the " Times " that were to be published: he chose
the books that were to be reviewed : he was
scrupulous as to the way in which even small
matters of social interest were announced and
handled. This method of editing was infinitely
laborious. Even when the " Times " was much
The Second Mile 41
less than its present size, the task of reading, cor
recting, and controlling from forty to fifty col
umns of new matter every night was immense.
But Delane never shrank from it.
I know editors getting fifty dollars a
week who would consider themselves
abused beyond endurance if any one sug
gested a day s work like Delane s.
Doubtless there were plenty of editors
in London in Delane s own day who
thought him a fool to work so hard. //
there were, we do not know their names.
Posterity seldom does know the names
of the men who are careful not to work too
Dickens began life as a stenographer.
How hard I worked at that tremendous short
hand and all the improvements pertaining to it!
[he exclaimed]. I will only add to what I have
already written of my perseverance at that time
of my life and the patient, continuous energy
which then began to be matured in me, and which
I know to be the strong point of my character, if
I have any strength at all, that there, on looking
back, I find the source of my success.
Bishop Butler worked twenty years on
42 It s a Good Old World
his " Analogy," and then wanted to burn
it because he thought it not good enough.
George Eliot read more than a thousand
volumes before she began to write " Dan
Patient, continuous, ceaseless work.
What the ordinary writer would have
called too much the extraordinary writer
thought hardly enough.
There is a verse in that great text-book
on modern business, the Bible, which
sums it all up :
" And whosoever shall compel thee to
go a mile, go with him twain."
Whosoever hires you to work eight
hours, take advantage of him by working
a little longer: whosoever compels you to
do a certain task, do more than you con
tract to do.
It s the second mile that counts. All
biography is a record of that truth: all
business experience attests it.
The work that no man compels you to
do is the work for which the world pays
A little too much is just enough.
" WHICH KNEW NOT JOSEPH "
IT S a very old, old story; but it never
needed retelling so much as in this
His name was Joseph, and he was car
ried away from home, and found himself
in Egypt, a strange new land.
Because he was good-looking, and intel
ligent, and a hard worker, he rose rapidly
until he became prime minister. Except
the king there was no other man in Egypt
more influential or more celebrated.
His relatives learned of his rise with
interest. They followed into Egypt, and
with his help they, too, prospered and were
It looked as though they were perma
nently provided for; as though nothing
could happen to dislodge them.
But in a single generation ; yes, in a little
fraction of a generation, the unbelievable
occurred. The people who were so con
tented, so free from all concern, were
44 It s a Good Old World
hurled from their high position into the
bitterness of slavery.
The thing that had happened to them
is recorded in a single sentence. Joseph
" And there arose a new king in Egypt,
which knew not Joseph."
Only a few years since Joseph s death
and the new King knew nothing about him
and cared less. His name had been a by
word in the ancient world : but a few peo
ple passed away, some new ones were born,
and presto, he was as much forgotten as
though he had never lived.
I would print that story large upon the
office walls of thousands of men in these
On the walls of business men, for ex
Only last week I talked with a man
who told me that his company controlled
seventy-five percent of the business in its
line a quarter of a century ago.
Today the company controls less than
twenty percent. The men who owned it
had grown self-satisfied; and almost over
" Which Knew Not Joseph " 45
night a new, virile competitor arose, and
with advertising pushed the older company
from its place of power.
Our fathers knew that older company
well; but you and I have hardly heard its
A new generation has arisen, a new king,
which knows not Joseph.
I would print it on the walls of writers,
and of preachers, and of law-makers, and
of every man who wants to see the race
You think that you have told your story
to the world, and that therefore your task
is done. I tell you that over night a new
world has been born that has never heard
You think because the Gospel has been
preached for 1,900 years that by that
preaching the race must automatically be
Every sermon preached as long ago
as yesterday is already dead.
A little slackening of the effort; a little
moment of self-satisfaction, and all the
momentum gained by years of work is lost.
46 // s a Good Old World
For the world moves swifter today than
ever before in its history. And even in
the very instant of your self-content, the
silence is shattered by the trampling of
Behold another generation has come, a
new king who knows no precedents, in
whose experience nothing is fixed:
A king in whose sight yesterday has been
cold a thousand years; a king which knows
HE CALLED THE PRESIDENT
" CHARLEY "
SOME weeks ago I left New York,
where the talk was all of labor
troubles and industrial unrest. Employ
ers were locking the doors against their
workmen; and labor leaders were calling
out their followers on strike.
I went up into the middle of the State to
an industrial city of twenty-two thousand
The vice-president of one of the large
plants there took me around in his auto
" Any labor trouble? " I asked.
" Not a bit."
" Ever had a strike? "
" Not in seventy-five years. Why, if
we did n t read the newspapers, we would
hardly know what the word means."
Later in the afternoon I sat in the office
of the president of another factory in the
48 // s a Good Old World
same city. It is no small plant ; the owners
are just breaking ground for an addition
that will cost more than a million dollars.
Only one other company in its line does a
larger annual business.
As I sat talking with the president, the
door opened and the shipping-clerk came
" Shall we prepay that shipment to
Louisville, Charley?" the shipping-clerk
" We will this time, Al," the president
I gasped. A concern whose goods are
sold from coast to coast, a concern whose
owners can build a million-dollar addition
without asking any outside help ! And
the shipping-clerk calls the president
In that instant a big light dawned for
me. I got a picture of a social organiza
tion far different from anything we resi
dents of the big cities know.
Charley, the president, owns his own
home; so does Al, the shipping-clerk.
Charley raises vegetables in the back-yard,
He Called the President 49
to cut down his cost of living. So also
Charley s children go to the same school
with Al s. Al s wife rides out occasion
ally with Charley s in the automobile.
And Charley s wife calls on Al s when
there is a new baby, or one of the older
children is sick.
No jealousy, no suspicion. No profi
teering on one side, or holding back on the
other. The company is our company, not
the company, to every man and woman
From our present social troubles we are
bound to reap some very large rewards.
The troubles look black enough at times.
It seems to have been decreed by Provi
dence that the process of birth should never
take place without the accompaniment of
suffering and pain and tears. And it is a
process of birth, not of death, that we are
passing through in this reconstruction
period. Out of it is going to come a new
world a world in which things will be
better for the average man than they ever
50 It s a Good Old World
One of the developments, in my judg
ment, will be the removal of a good many
industries from the smoke-laden air of the
cities to the pure air of the country.
Where every family can have a home
and a garden, and a man is a personality to
his employer, not a number.
Where it is harder to forget that the
business of industry is to create human
happiness as well as to multiply wealth.
Where men stand side by side in mutual
appreciation and respect
And even a shipping-clerk named " Al "
can call the president " Charley."
RECENTLY a young man wrote to
ask me how he could borrow a sum
of money for a certain purpose.
And I suggested that before he sought
to borrow any money, he should read the
biographies of Benjamin Disraeli and Bal
I would advise any young man who con
templates running in debt to read these two
Here is a note from Disraeli s diary, De
cember 5, 1836. What a tragic vision it
presents one of the most brilliant men
in England hesitating to accept a dinner-
invitation for fear of being arrested for
debt! He writes:
"Our county Conservative Dinner, which
will be the most important assembly of
its kind yet held, takes place on the 9th
inst. I have been requested to move the
52 It s a Good Old World
principal toast The House of Lords. I
trust there is no danger of my being
nabbed, . . . inasmuch as, in all proba
bility, I am addressing my future constit
In his later years Disraeli wrote these
If youth but knew the fatal misery
they are entailing on themselves the mo
ment they accept a pecuniary credit to
which they are not entitled, how they
would start in their career! How pale
they would turn ! How they would trem
ble and clasp their hands in agony at the
precipice on which they are disporting!
Debt . . . hath a small beginning but a
giant s growth and strength. When we
make the monster, we make our master,
who haunts us at all hours and shakes his
whip of scorpions forever in our sight.
Faustus, when he signed the bond with
blood, did not secure a doom more terrific."
How many hours of bitter agony and
regret are mirrored in that paragraph!
Balzac s life is even more pitiable. I
know of no more pathetic picture in all
A Course of Reading 53
history than that of this great genius, toil
ing relentlessly at his desk from two
o clock in the morning, adding story to
story and novel to novel afraid to pause
for even a single hour lest his creditors
close in upon him.
There are, of course, exceptional cir
cumstances under which a young man is
justified in running into debt. His debt
may secure an education, for example, and
so add greatly to his earning power. But
be very slow to assume that your circum
stances are exceptional.
Before you decide that you are justified
in running into debt, read the lives of these
two men, and the lives of Cicero, William
IV, Bret Harte, Eugene Field and Mark
Twain. They spent the best years of their
lives in paying for dead horses. Each
managed to be great in spite of constant,
irritating financial worry.
But the world will never know how much
greater they might have been had their
minds been wholly freed for constructive
work instead of burdened with the misery
ON MEETING AN INSIG
WE had invited some friends to spend
the evening with us ; and when they
arrived, he was with them. Rather short,
and almost bald he was, and his hand,
when he offered it, was soft and ladylike.
Altogether, he seemed to me about as in
significant a bit of humanity as I had re
I rather resented the fact that he had
come along to destroy the balance of the
party; and for some time we quite ignored
him in the conversation. Then, out of
common politeness, we addressed some
question to him about the war. And an
amazing thing took place. The little man
spoke up with an amount of information
and a calm confidence that were astonish
We led him on from point to point; and
always he answered modestly, but with
An Insignificant Man 55
facts that gripped our interest. From that
moment the conversation of the evening
centered about him.
" Who is he? " I asked my friend in a
whisper as he prepared to go.
And he answered: "Why, don t you
know? That is Jones, one of the greatest
chemists in this country. The Govern
ment sent for him when war was declared,
and he probably knows as much about the
real inside history of the past two years
as any man in the United States."
I only hoped, as I bade him good night,
that he had not guessed, from my earlier
attitude, how very insignificant and un
worthy of attention I had considered him.
Once upon a time an efficiency expert
boasted to me that a single glance was
enough to form his judgment of a man.
No matter what the circumstances of the
meeting, he said, he could rely upon his
Perhaps he was right; but I doubt it.
Would he, I wonder, have recognized in
the shabby little lieutenant named Bona
parte, wandering the streets of Paris, the
56 It s a Good Old World
man of destiny who was to conquer
If he had stood on the sidewalk of Phila
delphia when a crude lad walked by with
a loaf of bread under each arm, would he
have seen beneath that rough attire the
philosopher and statesman Franklin?
What about U. S. Grant, the middle-
aged failure, delivering wood in St. Louis
unkempt, unshaven, regarded by his
neighbors as a ne er-do-well?
God sends great souls into the world
clothed oftentimes in curious attire. And
one misses much good-fellowship who
thinks that from what men seem to be he
can determine offhand what they are.
Along a country road in Palestine a
group of tired men walked one afternoon
" Go ahead to the next village," said
their Leader, " and see if there we may find
a place to sleep."
After a little time they returned to say
that the village would not receive them.
It was a busy day in the village; the in
habitants were preoccupied and proud :
An Insignificant Man 57
what were a few travel-stained pilgrims to
them! They trusted their first impres
sion; it was a group of weary fishermen
whom they supposed they had refused.
And so they lost for themselves and
their village forever the opportunity to en
tertain His disciples and their Lord.
IT S A MOVING PICTURE WORLD,
AND THE FILM CHANGES
EVERY FEW MINUTES
IF some one had asked me on a certain
day in 1915 to name three permanent
human institutions, I might have answered:
The Papacy: the Bank of England: the
Czar of Russia.
Maybe, on consideration, I could have
given a better answer; but offhand that
sounds fairly reasonable.
At nine o clock that morning, so far as
we knew, the Czar of all the Russias was
as firm on his throne as Gibraltar. In my
morning paper at least, there was no hint
to the contrary.
And at six o clock we opened our eve
ning papers to discover him a prisoner, and
Russia on the threshold of immediate de
It was the kind of mental shock that is
good for us: the war was full of such
A Moving Picture World 59
We learned from it, in more dramatic
fashion than ever before, this very neces
sary truth that nothing is fixed, nothing
is sure, nothing is changeless, in this whole
A man told me the other day about a
conversation he once held with Jay Gould.
Gould got up from his desk, walked over
to the wall, and pointing to a map of the
United States, put his finger on the Mis
souri Pacific Railroad.
" There," he said, " is the finest railroad
property in the United States."
That conversation took place only about
a quarter of a century ago. A few months
ago the common stock of the Missouri Pa
cific sold down to something like four dol
lars, and the holders of it paid an assess
ment of fifty dollars a share to rehabilitate
So confident were the shrewd investors
of New England in the everlasting pros
perity of the New York, New Haven &
Hartford that they invested the funds of
widows and orphans and institutions in its
stock. Ten years ago there was not a
60 It s a Good Old World
banker in the United States who would
have believed that stock could ever crum
But the impossible happened : the
Suppose a man graduating from college
at any time in the past twenty-five years
had wanted to pick out an absolutely safe
profession, one into which no unexpected
change could possibly enter, what pro
fession would he have chosen?
Teaching in a college or university, prob
University professors are almost never
discharged: they are sure of work as long
as children continue to be born into the
world; and in old age they are taken care
of by Carnegie pensions.
So he might have argued to himself.
But, behold, there comes a world war,
taking away from a quarter to two-thirds
of the students of our colleges with their
tuition fees. The war ends; the students
return; but the dollar has so shrunk in pur
chasing power that every college professor
A Moving Picture World 61
in the land finds his secure living made
When Darwin was making his studies
in evolution, working out the law by which
lower forms changed through the ages into
higher, he came across certain forms of
life that, for some reason or other, had
been incapable of change.
Their environment had shifted, but they
failed to adapt themselves to the new en
So the tide of progress moved on and
left them, stranded wrecks on the shore.
The business world is full of men of that
sort. They say to themselves: " I know
this job well enough to hold it the rest of
my life. I can afford to take things a lit
tle easier. Nothing can happen now to
change my life."
So, gradually, they lose the power of
adaptation, which is the power of growth.
They are perfectly typified by the man
described in the Bible, who said to his soul :
" Soul, thou hast much goods laid up
for many years : take thine ease."
62 It j
That night he died.
The one change which he had not fore
seen came to him and found him un
ARE YOU INDUSTRIOUS, OR
1 PRESUME the stage is partly re
sponsible for it. Or perhaps the ear
nest young novelists who live in small
towns and write novels about American
Anyway, some one or something has
given us a portrait of the Successful Ameri
can Business Man that is unlike any suc
cessful American business man whom I
have ever happened to meet.
Our portrait represents him as snapping
orders through a telephone while he
munches his breakfast, stopping his auto
mobile half way downtown to get off a
couple of telegrams, rushing through a
breathless day at the office, and dictating
letters in his limousine all the way home.
As a matter of fact, nothing has im
pressed me as more characteristic of really
big men than a certain suggestion of
leisure, a kind of elevation above the lit-
tie maelstrom of detail in which the aver
age man is caught up and whirled through
He does big business without appearing
too busy. You know, from the record of
his achievements, that he must get through
an enormous amount of work in a day: yet
there seems to be nothing on his mind,
when you meet him, but the subject you
have come to discuss: and he apparently
has all the time that is needed to discuss it.
I talked one day with President Wilson.
His desk was piled with commissions and
bills waiting to be signed; it was a time of
great perplexity in foreign relations. I
had rather expected to be warned by his
secretary that I must leave in ten minutes,
and to have those ten minutes frequently
But the President talked for forty min
utes. He pushed back from his desk and
spoke of this thing and that, with no evi
dence of preoccupation, no more sign of
being rushed or ridden by his job, than as
if we were out fishing together, with the
whole day before us.
Are You Industrious? 65
Lincoln, of course, is the supreme exam
ple of the really great man s ability to
carry his burden easily, with no suggestion
of desperate haste.
The members of his Cabinet never grew
fully reconciled to his habit of stopping on
his way to Cabinet meetings to play a mo
ment with Tad and his goat.
They were so terribly busy themselves
they could not understand a man who
could carry a greater load, and yet have
plenty of time to be friendly and good-
natured and sympathetic.
Extreme busyness is a symptom of deficient vi
tality [says Stevenson] ; while a faculty for idle
ness implies a catholic appetite and a strong sense
of personal identity. There are dead-alive, hack
neyed people about, who are scarcely conscious of
living except in the exercise of some conventional
occupation. Bring those fellows into the coun
try, or set them aboard ship, and you will see how
they pine for their desk or their study. They
can not be idle. Their nature is not generous
enough, and they pass in a sort of coma those
hours which are not dedicated to furious moiling
in the gold mill. When they do not require to
66 It s a Good Old World
go to the office, they are not hungry and have no
mind to drink; the whole breathing world is a
blank to them. This does not appear to me as
being Success in Life.
Life is a good deal like a journey on a
Most of us go through with it huddled
in the same seat, our noses buried in our
And once in a while we glance up rather
enviously at the big, genial-looking man
across the aisle.
He, too, works. But every time the
train stops to change engines, he seems to
find time to get out for a little stroll on
the platform. His work has not pre
vented him from having some fun with
his kid, and learning a good deal about the
country through which he is passing, and
making some good friends on the trip.
We ask who he is, and learn that he is a
Captain of Industry.
It is an appropriate title. He captains
his industry commands it: it does not
command him. He organizes it, and fits
it into its proper place in his scheme of
Are You Industrious? 67
life. He does not let it interfere with
the important business of being sometimes
He has learned to be effective and still
To be industrious without being busy.
IF YOU ARE NOT TOO CAREFUL
WHO GETS THE CREDIT
YESTERDAY a man travelled two
miles out of his way, and wasted two
hours of his time, in order to call on me
and make a complaint.
We had published a photograph taken
by him, and had failed to put his name as
the photographer in little type under
It was our mistake, and I told him I was
sorry about it: but as he left I thought to
myself, " My dear sir, I have your meas
ure to a quarter of an inch."
And I felt like warning him to be care
ful, in walking over the subway gratings,
lest he should drop through one of the
For it is only little men, as I have ob
served, who are so tremendously concerned
about the precise allotment of credit in
I can not imagine Lincoln walking two
miles out of his way to protest because
his name had not been printed in little
He formed a Cabinet of men better
known nationally than himself: four of
them were sure that they were far greater
Seward wrote to his wife: " Only one
man can save the Union, and I am the
Stanton said to a friend who asked him
what he was going to do in the Cabinet:
" I am going to make Abe Lincoln Presi
dent of the United States."
Chase from the Treasury Department
conducted an open campaign for Lincoln s
defeat and his own nomination to the Pres
Yet Lincoln aware of it all pur
sued his quiet way untroubled. He meant
to save the Union; and if he could do it
by submitting to Stanton s abuse, he would
If he could do it by suffering some per
sonal humiliation at the hands of McClel-
70 It s a Good Old World
Ian and Fremont, it was a price he was
glad to pay.
If Seward or Stanton or Chase were to
have the credit when the thing was done,
he did not care. The important thing was
to get it done, let the credit fall where it
Have you read the story of Harriman s
fight to save the Imperial Valley, as told
by George Kennan?
In 1907 the Colorado River overflowed
its banks, and threatened to destroy the
valley. Though Harriman s railroads did
not own any of the land in the valley, Har-
riman jumped in and spent $1,500,000 to
stem the flood.
When it became evident that another
million or more would be required, he tele
graphed President Roosevelt, and the
President told him to go ahead, and prac
tically assured him that Congress would
Harriman saved the valley; Roosevelt
recommended his reimbursement; but Con
gress never acted on the recommendation,
and Harriman s roads have never to this
day been reimbursed.
Shortly before his death, Harriman re
visited the valley, and was met by a re
" Mr. Harriman, the Government
has n t paid you that money," said the re
porter, " and your work does not seem to
be duly appreciated; do you not, under
the circumstances, regret having made this
" No," replied Mr. Harriman. " The
valley was worth saving, was n t it? "
" Yes," said the reporter.
" Then we have the satisfaction of
knowing that we saved it, have n t we? "
Not much reward, you say, for the ex
penditure of two or three million dollars.
But it s the only kind of reward that big
men really value.
There is a wise old saying to this effect:
" A great deal of good can be done in
the world, if one is not too careful who
gets the credit."
If your object in life is to get credit,
72 It s a Good Old World
you 11 probably get it, if you work hard
But don t be too much surprised and
disappointed when some chap who just
went ahead and did the thing, without
thinking of the credit, winds up with more
medals on his chest than you, with all
your striving, have collected on yours.
THE REFLECTIONS OF A
1WENT down to the fire-house in my
precinct on the first Tuesday of No
vember, and voted for woman suffrage, as
has been my custom all these years.
And, to my astonishment, the next morn
ing I read in the newspaper that it had
I say astonishment, because almost noth
ing that I vote for ever does carry. On
the day after election I look over the pa
pers, and if a single Road Commissioner
or Supervisor of the Poor on my ticket has
pulled through, I consider that it has been
a successful election for me.
Like Truth, I have grown accustomed
to being crushed to earth. It doesn t
worry me as much as it used to.
For, having watched many elections and
listened to many campaign promises, I
have noticed this that the progress of
74 It s a Good Old World
the world is n t permanently affected very
much by turning one set of politicians out
and putting another set in.
I continue to vote, as intelligently as I
can; but I have ceased to feel as enthus
iastic as I used to feel about the power of
votes to usher in the millennium.
Maybe it s old age creeping on me;
maybe I m just plain old-fashioned. But
I just can t believe that anything is finally
going to turn the trick of saving the world
but simple individual goodness.
It was Napoleon a very successful
politician who said:
Alexander, Caesar, Charlemagne, and myself
founded empires. But on what did we rest the
creation of our genius? Upon sheer force.
Jesus Christ alone founded his empire upon love:
and at this hour millions of men will die for him.
The empires, with all their machinery
of election and of legislation, have passed
away, leaving hardly a trace behind.
The Carpenter held no elections : He
was president of nothing; secretary of
nothing; He formed no committees, made
A Grizzled Voter 75
no stump speeches, cast no vote. Yet the
influence of His simple goodness has out
lived all the empires of the earth, and
stands to-day the most potent force for
righteousness and progress in the world.
I lunched the other day with a cele
brated war correspondent, just back from
There s just one thing I m sure of,"
he said. " Everything else about the war
and the future of the world is problemati
cal. But this I know the world must
be run by heart power after this. We Ve
tried brain power, and it does n t work.
The Germans developed it to its highest
point of efficiency, and we have the results
to-day. It s got to be heart power from
now on, or we re all in; that s all."
And the home is the dynamo out of
which heart power flows.
There were thousands of agitators and
reformers at work in the United States in
the days before the Civil War. They
doubtless did much good work. But all
their influence added together did not equal
that of the simple woman in a log cabin
76 It s a Good Old World
who gave us Abraham Lincoln, with a
heart power great enough to reunite his
I welcome my sisters to the ballot-box.
They will clog up the polling place a little
more, and make me a bit later in getting
down to the office on election day. But
I 11 forgive them all that, and I 11 vote
for all the reforms they think are going
to do any good, so long as they will con
tinue to give us sons like the Carpenter
Meantime, when their pet reforms and
candidates are defeated as often they
will be < let me commend to them Sam
Let me live in a house by the side of the road,
Where the race of men go by
The men who are good, and the men who are bad,
As good and as bad as I.
I would not sit in the scorner s seat,
Or hurl the cynic s ban;
Let me live in a house by the side of the road
And be a friend to man.
Reforms will come and go : Truth will
A Grizzled Voter 77
keep right on being crushed and rising
again. Politicians will promise and fail
to make good. Movements will wax and
wane. But if enough of us build our
houses alongside of Sam s, we 11 gradually
turn this old alleyway of a world into a
nice, respectable street, no matter who car
ries our precinct for alderman.
"THEY SAY" HAS MADE MANY
A GOOD MAN GOOD FOR
THE first steamboats built in America
looked like wooden boxes with
Colonel John Stevens, their designer,
concentrated his attention on his engines.
One day his son Robert conceived the
notion that the boats would make better
time if their bows were longer and more
sloping. - He designed a false bow of this
sort, and built it on to a ship called the
New Philadelphia, which slipped through
the water so much more easily thereafter
that it attained the great speed of thirteen
and a half miles an hour.
Robert had to build his bow almost with
his own hands.
He took it to his ship-builders, Messrs.
Brown & Bell, and asked them to do it for
him. But Mr. Bell declined.
" They Say " 79
" That bow will be called Bell s nose," he
said, " and I shall be a general laughing
So a man who might have played a
worthy part in the development of a great
industry in America lost one big chance be
cause he was afraid of the possible ridi
cule of people whose opinion, one way or
the other, was worthless.
How many utterly drab and uninterest
ing people are there in the world who
might have developed real personalities
if they had only had courage to do and be
something different from the crowd.
Every single forward step in history has
been taken over the bodies of empty-
headed fools who giggled and snickered.
Fulton, needing a paltry $1,000 to com
plete the building of his first steamboat, at
length managed to secure it. But the
friends who lent it asked that their names
be withheld from the public lest it should
be known that they had any connection
with so foolhardy an enterprise.
As I had occasion daily to pass to and from
the ship-yard where my boat was in progress [he
8o It s a Good Old World
says], I often loitered near the groups of
strangers, and heard various inquiries as to the
object of this new vehicle. The language was
uniformly that of scorn, sneer, or ridicule. The
loud laugh often rose at my expense; the dry
jest ; the wise calculation of losses or expendi
tures; the dull but endless repetition of " Fulton s
Folly." Never did a single encouraging remark,
a bright hope, a warm wish cross my path.
Governor De Witt Clinton, pushing
through the construction of the Erie Canal,
which was so important a factor in the
early upbuilding of the country, was hooted
with cries of " Clinton s Big Ditch " and
" Clinton s Folly."
Alaska, which has paid for itself so many
hundred times over, was derisively referred
to as " Seward s Ice-Box " when that
courageous statesman negotiated for its
purchase from Russia.
Remember this if you would accomplish
anything worth while : The crowd is gen
erally good-natured, but its judgments are
seldom the judgments of history.
If you have anything really valuable to
contribute to the world, it will come
"They Say" 81
through the expression of your own per
sonality^ that single spark of divinity
that sets you off and makes you different
from every other living creature.
A noted English schoolmaster used to
have as his motto :
Never explain, never retract, never
apologize. Get it> done and let them howl.
It is a motto not altogether to be com
mended. He who governs his life accord
ing to it will not be an agreeable companion
or accomplish the largest service under a
government where the will of the majority
must finally prevail.
But there is a rugged spirit of inde
pendence embedded in it that many men
would do well to adopt.
You can afford to have a decent regard
for public opinion : but you can never afford
to let yourself get into the pathetic condi
tion where what they say or may say will
keep you from doing what ought to be
It s a hopeless condition to be in, be
cause what they say to-day is not what
they said yesterday or will say to-morrow.
82 It s a Good Old World
" For John the Baptist came neither eat
ing bread nor drinking wine," said Jesus,
" and ye say, He hath a devil.
" The Son of Man is come eating and
drinking; and ye say, Behold a gluttonous
man, and a wine-bibber, a friend of publi
cans and sinners."
YOU HAVE KNOWN ABOUT HIM
ALL THESE YEARS: BUT HAVE
YOU REALLY KNOWN HIM?
SINCE we stand upon the threshold of
His birthday, let me introduce you to
the most attractive, most delightful young
man in the world.
You have never known Him as he really
is: all the pictures ever drawn misrepre
sent Him. They have made Him out a
weakling, a woman s features with a beard
He who for years swung an adz and
drove a saw through heavy timbers, who
for long days tramped the borders of His
loved lake, and would not sleep indoors
if He could slip away into His garden.
An outdoor man He was, a man s man
who could stand watch when all His
friends deserted Him in sleep, and could
face the tempest in a little boat calm-eyed
84 It s a Good Old World
They have called Him a pacifist. How
could they forget that day, I wonder, when
in the midst of the hard-faced crowd He
stood, and braiding a little whip, drove
them out before Him?
Think you it was only the glance of
righteous anger in His eye that sent them
scurrying? I tell you that behind that lit
tle whip were muscles of iron, made strong
by many years of labor, and a spirit that
never once knew fear, not even in the pres
ence of the cross.
I have met men long-faced and sorrow
ful, wagging their heads bitterly over the
evil of the world, and by their very joy-
lessness adding to that evil. And in their
hearts they supposed that they were rep
Think of it representing Him, to
whom little children flocked with joyous
laughter, and men, beseeching Him to have
dinner with them in their homes.
You remember the first of His miracles
or perhaps you do not. Too often
those who claim His name have preferred
to forget that miracle. It does not fit in
You Have Known About Him 85
with the picture of Him that they have
He was at a wedding party with His
mother and some friends where the merri
ment ran high. In the midst of it they
came to Him in consternation. The wine
had given out.
So He performed His first miracle.
Just to save a hostess from embarrassment
and He thought it worth a miracle.
Just to save a group of simple folk from
having their hour of joy cut short it
was for such a cause, He thought, that His
divine power had been intrusted to Him.
No one ever felt His goodness a cloud
upon the company. No one ever laughed
less heartily because He had joined the
group. His was the gospel of joyfulness;
His the message that the God of men
would have them travel happily with Him,
as children by a Father s side, not as
servants shuffling behind.
They killed Him, of course, in the end,
and sometimes I am almost glad glad
that He died at thirty-three, with youth
still athrob in His veins, and never an
86 It s a Good Old World
illusion lost or an ideal dimmed by age.
Claim Him, you who are young and
love life; let no man dispute your claim.
For He too was young and is; He too
loved laughter and life.
Old age and the creeds have had Him
too long: I offer Him now to you not in
creed but in truth Jesus of Nazareth,
the joyous companion, the young man
whom young men can love.
BE SURE YOU RE RIGHT AND
THEN DON T DO IT
IN Washington the other day I called on
a high official of the Government,
whose department has come in for a great
deal of praise in the last few months.
I found him in his office, well and happy.
And I said to him:
When I called on you three years ago,
you had just made a move that everybody
thought was absolutely indefensible. In
the Senate and House they were calling
for your resignation. Various cities sent
resolutions to the President demanding
that a fit man be substituted in your stead.
That was three years ago and now
you seem to be in danger of becoming a
really popular character."
" One thing a man has to learn in public
office," he said, " is that criticism is inevi
table. The man who lets his judgment be
88 It s a Good Old World
deflected from day to day by what the peo
ple think or say, will go on the rocks as
sure as shooting.
" A man must trust his own judgment
and conscience, and go ahead. Some day,
if he has been true, the facts will come to
light and justify him."
Coming back on the train, I picked up
Ida Tarbell s "Life of Lincoln," and read
again the story of those bitter years of
In the West was Fremont, brilliant, im
petuous, conceited the popular idol.
Without consultation or authority from the
President, he issued in his own name an
Emancipation Proclamation. It was im
mensely popular in the North. Newspa
pers and public speakers hailed it as a
stroke of statesmanship, and its author as
the man of vision who dared while the
President weakly hesitated.
The country did not know the full facts :
Lincoln did. He knew that such a procla
mation, issued at that hour, would do far
greater harm than good. It would not
help to save the Union; and it might throw
Be Sure You re Right 89
into the arms of the Confederacy those
border States which had it in their power
to win the war.
So he modified the proclamation.
When his order was made public, says
Miss Tarbell, " a perfect storm of denun
ciation broke over the President. The
whole North felt outraged. There was
talk of impeaching Lincoln and replacing
him with Fremont. Great newspapers
criticized him, warning him to learn where
he was tending. Influential men in all pro
fessions spoke bitterly of his action.
" How many times, wrote James Rus
sell Lowell, are we to save Kentucky and
lose our self-respect?
And all the time Lincoln, knowing better
than any of his critics, having in his own
mind his own plan for an Emancipation
Proclamation, held his peace, enduring the
criticism, waiting for the proper hour.
Passages like that make me feel very
reticent about exercising my divine right,
as an American citizen, to denounce the
So often, in our history, the events have
proved that those who were criticized had
all the facts, and the critics only part.
So often men have slain the prophets
and then erected mausoleums to them aft
Criticism is an intelligent service in a
democracy: but it is a very specialized job;
and I, for one, am willing that it should be
somebody s else job.
Generally speaking, there is safety in
this rule, and a lot of solid sense :
Don t criticize until you re sure you re
Then don t.
Usually by the time you re absolutely
sure, it will be too late, anyway.
I HAVE ALWAYS HAD A SOFT
SPOT IN MY HEART FOR
I HAVE always had a soft spot in my
heart for Joseph, the true-hearted car
penter of Nazareth.
To Mary, his wife, the mother of Jesus,
the world pays generous homage, and well
Her faith was firm at the end; she was
one of those who stood brave and trusting
even at the foot of the cross.
The world remembers that; and gener
ously forgets that there were times when
her Son was too great a mystery for her.
Times when she and His brethren would
have locked Him up as mad, and when He
spoke of them almost as though they were
hardly worthy of Him.
We forget all this, and remember her
at her best, and she deserves to be remem
92 It s a Good Old World
But Joseph we remember hardly at all.
Yet he must have been a wonderful man.
" Suffer the little children to come unto
me " Jesus said, holding out his tired
arms, and smiling; even as His patient car
penter-father had opened his arms to his
own children at the close of the wearying
Remembering such a scene as that I
stand reverently before the memory of
Joseph. This is his distinction he so
represented fatherhood to his own Son,
that the Son could conceive of no more
splendid title for God than the single title,
There is no reward of riches for suc
cessful fathers; no distinguished service
medal; no Victoria Cross.
We reverence Washington and Lincoln,
Luther and Phillips Brooks; but the men
who gave them birth and training have
disappeared from our remembrance.
Yet I know of no business of greater
compensations than the business of success
Recently I was a visitor at two homes.
A Soft Spot for Joseph 93
The first was a home of abundance; we
ate on rich china, and sat afterwards amid
expensive surroundings. I wondered that
a man who had so much should seem to
find so little satisfaction in it.
Late in the evening I discovered the
" Men call me fortunate," he said to
me, " but they do not know what they
say. I have made a failure of the only
thing in life that counts. My son is
worthless and I let him drift into
The other home was modest. The man
who dwells in it will never be heard of
beyond the limits of his own small town.
But he has put humanity in his debt. The
lives that he has brought into the world
will shed glory on his name long after he
has passed beyond.
He has paid the price, of course; he
might perhaps have gone farther in busi
ness if he had been content to sacrifice
everything to business.
But for years he has made it a rule to
take some regular time each day to be a
94 It s a Good Old World
comrade to his boys. Their reading, their
sports, their problems are a first considera
tion on his calendar. In business he
makes only his living; at home he is guid
ing and molding lives.
" Do not be concerned at my death,"
murmured Samuel Wesley on his dying bed.
" God will then begin to manifest himself
in my family."
The world has erected no monument
above Samuel Wesley: he has been for
gotten as completely forgotten as
though he had been a king of England or
But the influence of his character will
not perish. His is the proud heritage of
the friends of Joseph the unobtrusive,
unremembered fellowship of men who lose
their lives in fatherhood
and losing them, find an immortality
in the undying influence of their sons.
SEVERAL years ago when I had just
been promoted to my first real job, I
called on a business friend of mine. He
is a wise and experienced handler of men;
I asked him what suggestions he could
make about executive responsibility.
u You are about to make the great dis
covery," he said. " Within a week or two
you will know why it is that executives
grow gray and die before their time. You
will have learned the bitter truth that
there are no efficient people in the world."
I am still very far from admitting that
he was right, but I know well enough what
he meant. Every man knows who has
ever been responsible for a piece of work,
or had to meet a pay-roll.
Recently another friend of mine built
a house. The money to build it repre
sented a difficult period of saving on the
part of himself and his wife; it meant ov
ertime work and self-denial, and extra ef-
96 It s a Good Old World
fort in behalf of a long-cherished dream.
One day when the work was well along,
he visited it, and saw a workman climbing
a ladder to the roof with a little bunch of
shingles in his hands.
" Look here," the foreman cried, " can t
you carry a whole bundle of shingles? "
The workman regarded him sullenly.
" I suppose I could," he answered, " if I
wanted to bull the job."
By " bull the job " he meant " do an
honest day s work."
At ten o clock one morning I met still
another man in his office in New York.
He was munching a sandwich and gulping
a cup of coffee which his secretary had
brought in to him.
" I had to work late last night," he said,
" and meet a very early appointment this
morning. My wife asked our maid to
have breakfast a half hour early so that I
might have a bite and still be here in
" When I came down to breakfast, the
maid was still in bed."
She lives in his home, and eats, and is
"And Re Goeth" 97
clothed by means of money which his brain
provides; but she has no interest in his
success, no care whatever except to do the
minimum of work.
" The real trouble with the world to
day is a moral trouble," said a thoughtful
man recently. " A large proportion of its
people have lost all conception of what it
means to render an adequate service in re
turn for the wages they are paid."
He is a generous man. On almost any
sort of question his sympathies are likely
to be with labor, and so are mine. I am
glad that men work shorter hours than
they used to, and in certain instances I
think the hours should be even shorter.
I am glad they are paid higher wages, and
hope they may earn still more.
But there are times when my sympathy
goes out to those in whose behalf no voice
is ever raised to the executives of the
world, whose hours are limited only by the
limit of their physical and mental endur
ance, who carry not merely the load of
their own work, but the heartbreaking
load of carelessness and stolid indifference
98 It s a Good Old World
in so many of the folks whom they employ.
Perhaps the most successful executive
in history was that centurion of the Bible.
" For I am a man under authority, hav
ing soldiers under me," he said. " And
I say to this man go, and he goeth; and to
another, come, and he cometh; and to my
servant, do this, and he doeth it."
The modern executive also says " Go,"
and too often the man who should have
gone will appear a day or two later and
explain, " I didn t understand what you
meant." He says " Come," and at the
appointed time his telephone rings and a
voice speaks saying: " I overslept and
will be there in about three quarters of an
" IN A MANGER "
JUST a group of simple shepherds they
were: going about their jobs as usual,
with no suspicion that this night would be
different from any other.
And to them, of all men in the world,
the heavenly vision came.
In their ears, mingled with the noises of
their daily toil, the angel voices sounded.
Thousands of men were looking eagerly
for the appearance of the Messiah that
night as they had looked for His ap
pearance every night for years.
Surely with great acclaim He would
come: in a King s palace, with signs and
wonders to restore His chosen people.
And while their eyes were fixed on high
to see the great event, lo, the great event
took place at their very feet; and they
never saw it.
He came to the world out of the depths,
not on the heights. They found Him " ly
ing in a manger."
It often happens so in life.
There is in the world to-day a man who
has toiled terribly that he might achieve a
He has piled dollar upon dollar and
business upon business. Mounting to the
top of the great pile which he has made,
he has looked longingly for a glimpse of
the thing worth while; and he has not
While, only one short block from his
home, in a little cottage, surrounded by his
red-cheeked children, a man who will never
have ten thousand dollars to his name
looks out on life through reverent eyes, and
finds it wonderful.
Not in the palace on that street will one
find the Kingdom of Happiness : but in the
Even as they found Him, years ago,
lying in a manger.
There is another man who cherishes in
his heart the vision of a reconstructed
He hopes by laws and ordinances, and
by this and that, to hedge the people in and
"In a Manger" 101
mold them so that they must be good in
spite of themselves.
His mind is full of social betterment:
and in his heart is no appreciation what
ever of the people whom he seeks to better.
He has no confidence in them.
He forgets that it was from them Lin
He forgets that it was the French Revo
lution, in spite of its violence, and not the
thought and plan of statesmen, that started
the modern world on its great roll toward
Almost every great movement has
grown up from below. Yet he does not
understand it. He thinks to hand im
provement down, like old clothes, from
He seeks the millennium from on high :
and behold, at his very feet, the millennium
is slowly working itself into being.
Even as the great beginning of the mil
lennium came, not in a king s palace, but in
It is an easy thing to fix one s eyes on the
distant splendor, and, pressing toward it,
lose the nearer splendor that lies every
It is a temptation to say, "I am so busy
with the great work I am doing, my activi
ties are so important, that I can not be
bothered about little things."
He who was born in a manger was never
busy. With the burden of the world on
His shoulders, he was not too preoccupied
to hear the cry of a single blind man.
Wearied by anxious hours of toil, He
was not too weary to open his arms to little
" Take time to live each day in simple
friendliness " this would be His message
" The Kingdom of Happiness lies, not
far off, but close about you."
It was thus that the shepherds dis
In the midst of their daily job the heav
enly light broke around them: with the
noises of their regular, routine labor in
their ears, the voice of the angel sounded:
" Ye shall find Him . . . lying in a
WHY YOUR EYES ARE IN THE
FRONT OF YOUR HEAD
IN 1833 a clerk in the patent office at
Washington handed in his resignation.
It was an interesting document, touched
with pathos. He had found the work con
genial, he said; he was sorry to leave it.
But his conscience would not allow him to
continue to draw pay under false pretenses.
There was no more need for a job like his.
Every possible invention had been con
ceived and patented; there was nothing
left to invent.
In 1833 and nothing left to invent!
Before the railroads had spanned the con
tinent! Before electricity lighted our
streets and moved our cars ! Before the
telephone, or the wireless, or the steam-
shovel, or the dynamo ! At the very
threshold of the greatest period of me
chanical advance that the world has ever
known, this young man threw up his hands.
A large section of the human race, in
104 I^ 5 a Good Old World
any age, belongs to the class of that mis
taken young man. You find men at every
period, their eyes gripped by the past,
looking forward, when they look at all,
only to shudder and to fear.
They were the people who criticized Jef
ferson bitterly because he paid the enor
mous sum of 60,000,000 francs for the
worthless tract of land beyond the Alle-
ghenies. Fortunately he withstood their
criticism and persisted in his extravagant,
high-handed course, and the richest agri
cultural empire in the world was added to
our territory at a cost of less than four
cents an acre.
They sneered at Fulton when his steam
ship lay building in the dry-dock. The
idea of a fool supposing that he could run
a boat without the aid of wind or tide !
And the children of these men of little
faith stand to-day aghast at the prospect
of what may happen to the world in the
months that are before us.
I met a few days ago a rich man who
shook his head lugubriously. " I am turn
ing everything I can into gold or Govern-
Your Eyes 105
ment bonds," he said, " and I am not so
sure about the bonds. We are going to
have terrible times; mark my words."
The same day a laborer spoke to me,
nodding sagely. " I tell you we have no
idea of the troubles that are coming to us,"
he said. " Europe is bankrupt, and we
are on the way."
They did not need to tell me that we
are to have some trying times : I know it
as well as the next man. You cannot
shake the earth from its very foundations,
and expect to set it back in place again
without a jar.
But I know this which they do not
know, or do not believe, at least that
the world, with all its times of trouble,
still moves ahead. No man can play a
big part in the world who does not be
lieve in the future of the world.
There is a thrill in the thought of the
days ahead with the rising of peoples
long oppressed, and the overturn of cus
toms long outgrown. Suppose it does
cost us part of the money we have saved;
we re young and can make some more.
io6 It s a Good Old World
Suppose it does throw some of us into new
jobs; there s joy in a job that is new.
It is pleasant to read the history of the
past but the wise man does his histor
ical reading at night when the day s work
is done. During the working hours he
keeps his eyes on the great and glorious
and thrilling future.
For eyes were made to look forward;
that s why they re placed in the front of
WOULD YOU BE GREAT? THEN
EXPECT SUFFERING: FOR IT IS
THE STUFF GREATNESS IS
I HAVE been reading the tragic, inspir
ing story of a great man.
His work has enriched the life of every
generation since his own : but his life was
a long, dark day of suffering.
This man was Ludwig von Beethoven.
He was born in a humble cottage in
Bonn in the year 1770. His parents were
poor, but that is a minor matter. The
parents of most great men have been poor.
Tragedy entered Beethoven s life not by
reason of his parents poverty, but because
they were utterly incapable of appreciat
ing the fine spiritual gift that was in the
His father had no thought but to ex
ploit the son s musical talent. At the age
of eleven he was playing in theater or-
io8 It s a Good Old World
chestras and carrying burdens far too
heavy for his young shoulders to bear.
His health was poor: there were none
to appreciate his genius: and in the glory
of his young manhood, when he was just
beginning to feel his power, his life was
clouded by an irremediable calamity. He
began to lose his hearing.
Think of it!
A musician, dependent on the fine har
mony of sounds for his success and deaf
Poverty-stricken, unloved, betrayed and
flouted by the nephew for whom he had
sacrificed everything, this unconquerable
spirit yet gave to the world music that has
gladdened the hearts of millions of men
and women in every land.
I have no friend; I must live alone [he said].
But I know that in my heart God is nearer to
me than to others. I approach him without fear;
I have always known him. Neither am I anx
ious about my music, which no adverse fate will
overtake, and which will free him who under
stands it from the misery which afflicts others.
And at another time :
Would You Be Great? 109
I want to prove that whoever acts rightly and
nobly can by that alone bear misfortune.
No man can read these words, remem
bering Beethoven s life, without feeling
his own soul enriched and strengthened.
It is a significant thing that a large pro
portion of the great lives of history have
been conceived in suffering and nurtured
on disappointment and pain.
We think of Lincoln as the great story
teller. But if you would know the real
Lincoln, look at the deep lines in his face.
Napoleon conquered the world; yet he
almost never laughed. He was never
really well; never rose from his bed feel
ing rested; he was so depressed as a young
man that he seriously contemplated end
ing his life.
It was a famous writer who said:
" What has been well written has been well
" The lives of the great heroes were
lives of long martyrdom," says Remain
Holland in the "Life of Beethoven" from
which I have quoted. " A tragic destiny
willed their souls to be forged on the anvil
no It s a Good Old World
of physical and moral grief, of misery and
There is this consolation to you in your
hours of disappointment and distress
that suffering is the stuff out of which true
Yield to it weakly, and it will destroy
you. Rise a conqueror of it, and by that
act you become a finer spirit, a greater
man or woman.
" I, if I be lifted up, will draw all men
unto me," said Jesus of Nazareth.
By " lifted up " He meant " lifted up
on the cross" crucified. Only by His
suffering and death could He become the
Cure and Saviour of the world.
There was no short cut, no easier way,
to greatness and glory for Him : and there
seldom is for any man.
IF THERE WERE ONLY A TAX
AT a public dinner some weeks ago five
speakers were scheduled. It was
agreed that each would speak for twenty
minutes a hundred minutes of oratory,
all that any patient audience ought to be
called upon to stand.
The first man spoke twenty-two minutes.
The second man spoke twenty-five.
The third man stood on his feet and
rambled along for an hour and forty-four
The other two speakers, with an amount
of Christian charity and common sense not
often found among platform habitues, had
meanwhile folded their tents and gone
The speaker has an unfair advantage
over a writer.
Any reader of this piece can, at any mo
ment, decide that it is not worth reading,
and move on (as doubtless many do),
112 It s a Good Old World
But no man rises in the middle of a pub
lic address, jams on his hat and stamps
down the aisle.
We are held by a certain convention of
courtesy: and nine speakers out of ten pre
sume upon that fact.
Only once in a blue moon does a man
arise and, without palaver, drive right to
the point, making his statement in a few
crisp words, and sitting down before we
are ready to have him stop.
Such a one leaves us gasping with re
lief and admiration : we would with the
slightest encouragement, shout for him for
President. He glistens in our memory;
and we mention his name with a certain
awe when the names of speakers are told.
Brevity is so popular a virtue that I can
not understand why more speakers do not
It is one of the keys to immortality.
Two men spoke at Gettysburg on the
same afternoon during the Civil War.
One man was named Everett, the leading
orator of his day; and he made a typically
" great " oration.
A Tax on Talk 113
What reader of this page has ever heard
it referred to; or could repeat a single
The other speaker read from a slip of
paper less than 300 words. His speech
Lincoln s Gettysburg Address will
Greeley used to say that the way to
write a good editorial was to write it to
the best of your ability, then cut it in two
in the middle and print the last half.
When a reporter complained to Dana
that he could not possibly cover a certain
story in six hundred words, Dana sent him
to the Bible :
" The whole story of the creation of the
world is told in less than six hundred," he
Everything is taxed these days except
talk: and no tax could be more popular
from the standpoint of the patient con
The tax should be graded, like the in
come tax. Let speeches of five minutes or
under be exempt; from five to ten minute
speeches, ten per cent; ten to fifteen min-
H4 It s a Good Old World
utes, fifteen per cent. Over thirty min
utes, sixty per cent; and over an hour 100
per cent, with double taxes on all speeches
Only by some such rigorous treatment
will the spoken word regain a position of
respect; and silence receive the honor that
is its due.
There is one historical character who
has fascinated me. His name was Enoch :
the honor conferred upon him has been en
joyed by no other; yet his whole biography
is written in less than twenty words.
" And Enoch walked with God: and he
was not: for God took him."
So far as we know he was the only man
ever selected by the Almighty as a walking
And there is every indication that he was
a man of very few words.
THE GREAT GOD " MUST
A FEW days ago a successful man sat
in my office discussing his business.
"Our organization is all right; we re
showing good profits," he said. " The
only thing we lack is a boss that can make
things hum as they used to in the old days
when we were poor and struggling.
" The best thing that could happen to
the business would be for me to lose all
my money. I don t have to worry any
more; I don t have to work and try as
he may, the man who does n t have to work
can t put the same fire into it as he did
when his living and his future were at
The next afternoon at the club I ran
into a college mate whose father left him
plenty of money. He had as much ability
as any man in his class; and he has worked
at one job and another after a fashion.
No one could accuse him of being shiftless.
ii6 It s a Good Old World
But always in the back of his mind was
the consciousness that he did not need to
work. If he lost the job, if it proved un
pleasant and he quit, nothing vital was
sacrificed. He still could live and wait to
look around for something more according
to his fancy. So while some other men,
who have had to hustle from commence
ment day, have made real places for them
selves, he still is holding jobs none of
which seem to him quite worth holding.
There is something in all this worth re
membering in days when the air is so full
of schemes for reorganizing the world on
an easier basis. All the socialistic systems
I have ever heard of, all the plans for sub
stituting governmental ownership for pri
vate ownership, break down when you ask
this impertinent question :
" But how are you going to get men to
William James, the psychologist,
pointed out long ago that even the most
ambitious of us live at about half our
actual capacity. It s only when we are
stirred by a great demand, an insistent ne-
The Great God "Must" 117
cessity, that we accomplish the sort of
things that make us proud of our humanity.
The war proved that to millions of men.
We subscribed for Liberty Bonds away
beyond our capacity to pay; we didn t see
how we could possibly work our way out.
Yet we did work our way out. We did
because we had to.
I have seen writers become so well fixed
financially that they could take things easy.
" Now I can do really fine work," they
say. " I have leisure, and can wait until I
am fully rested and then produce a master
piece which will show no trace of pressure
And usually they produce nothing at all.
Most of the great works of art have
been the creation of men who needed food
and drink and room-rent. Old Mother
Hubbard when she went to the cupboard
and found not even a single bone, was
then in perfect condition to sit down and
write a first-class novel, or carve an im
mortal statue or start a beauty parlor that
would have made her rich.
We need a little more clear-thinking
ii8 It s a Good Old World
these days a new gospel of work, and a
new definition of independence. We have
talked about independence as though it
meant leisure, freedom from responsibility,
the opportunity to loaf.
But real independence is mastery the
proud consciousness of being able to do a
task a little better than the average, and
the assurance that the task itself will pro
vide the reward of every legitimate desire.
We want the world to be every year an
easier and happier and more comfortable
place. But our progress toward that end
will be mightily diminished if we ever in
stitute a social system that banishes the iron
mastery of the great god " Must."
PUT GREAT MEN TO WORK FOR
YOU: IT DOESN T COST
CONSIDERING that it costs nothing,
I am surprised that so few people
have the great men of the world working
Personally I should hardly know how
to get through a week without their help.
I am in a business that has no office
hours : there is no one except myself to as
sign my work and see that it gets done.
And frequently there are days when I
kick against my boss and do not feel like
doing any work at all.
For such days I have discovered a rem
edy. I go to my desk a little early, and
instead of starting at once to work, I pick
up the biography of some great man and
read a chapter out of the most interesting
portion of his life.
After half an hour or so, I am con
scious of a new feeling. My spiritual
shoulders are straighter, my reluctance has
disappeared. I say to myself: "How
trivial is my task compared with the mar
vels he achieved." I am on fire with his
example, eager to make the day count.
The discovery that great men can be
drafted for help in even the humblest of
fice is not original with me. Many an
other has profited by it; Emerson, for ex
" I cannot even hear of personal vigor of any
kind, great power of performance, without fresh
resolution," he says. " We are emulous of all
that men do. Cecil s saying of Sir Walter
Raleigh, I know that he can toil terribly, is an
electric touch. So are Clarendon s portraits of
Hampden ; who was of an industry and vigil
ance not to be tired out or wearied by the most
laborious, and of parts not to be imposed upon by
the most subtle and sharp, and of a personal cour
age equal to his best parts ; and of Falkland:
who was so severe an adorer of truth that he
could as easily have given himself leave to steal
as to dissemble. We cannot read Plutarch with
out a tingling of the blood ; and I accept the say
ing of the Chinese Mercius : A sage is the in
structor of a hundred ages. When the manners
Put Great Men to Work 121
of Loo are heard of, the stupid become intelligent,
and the wavering, determined. "
There is in biography an antidote for
almost every mood.
Are we discouraged ? A half hour with
Lincoln, carrying patiently his great load,
never once losing faith, makes me properly
ashamed of myself.
Are we inclined to be afraid? It stirs
new depths of courage in us to read of
Stonewall Jackson, whose motto was :
" Never take counsel of your fears."
Do we vacillate between two courses of
action? There is in all literature no such
warning against vacillation as the pitiful
uncertainties of poor Cicero.
I would commend these willing helpers
to every man who finds his task sometimes
heavy beyond his individual strength.
There is no limit to their service. The
fact that I employ them does not keep
them from working with equal efficiency
for you. They answer at a moment s no
tice, and may be dismissed peremptorily
without the slightest hurt upon their feel
122 It s a Good Old World
In their companionship is the secret of
mental and spiritual growth. It is fairly
easy to be as great as our contemporaries.
It is hard to lift ourselves by our own boot
straps to distinguished effort and achieve
But these great men, any one of us may
make his own contemporaries and com
panions if he will; and there is no danger
that we will outgrow them.
They are a daily stimulation to that
which is best and most effective in us
they stand out like golden peaks of
achievement along which even the least
of us may climb a little nearer to his best
HEZEKIAH IS DEAD: BUT HIS
FORMULA STILL HOLDS GOOD
THERE is a certain man among my
acquaintances who, with a little less
ability, would have made a splendid suc
That sounds strange; but employers of
men will understand it: they will have a
picture right away of the kind of man he is.
In his boyhood he mowed lawns, like the
other boys: also he ran a lemonade stand,
and managed a newspaper route, and was
forever figuring out a new scheme.
He graduated from high school and
entered business with great promise. But
he had not been at work three months be
fore he was running a couple of little pri
vate businesses on the side.
So he has continued through life
cursed with the unhappy gift of being able
to do three or four things at once.
He ekes out a very fair income to-day,.
124 ft * a Good Old World
drawing it in little bits from half a dozen
But he is getting along in life, and there
is no one single business of which he can
say: " I made it." He has scattered
himself so widely that there is not one spot
in the world s life that bears the permanent
imprint of his effort.
Twice he has almost broken down from
overwork. And four of the men who
were his boyhood play-mates men who
were satisfied to mow lawns and attempt
nothing else have plugged along, each in
a single business, and with far less ability
than he, have reached a higher place in the
I was reminded of him last night, in run
ning across a reference to Lord Mount
Stephen, in the new biography of James J.
George Stephen he became Lord
Mount Stephen afterward was the son
of a carpenter in Dufftown, Scotland. He
worked for a time in a shop in Aberdeen,
but was brought to America at an early
age, and became one of the makers of
Hezeklah Is Dead
Canada, and a power in the British
In 1901, visiting Scotland, the carpen
ter s son was presented with the freedom
of the city of Aberdeen; and this is what
Any success I may have had in life is due in
great measure to the somewhat Spartan training
I received during my Aberdeen apprenticeship,
on which I entered as a boy of fifteen. To that
training, coupled with the fact that / seem to have
been born utterly without the faculty of doing
more than one thing at a time, is due that I am
here before you to-day. I had but few wants and
no distractions to draw me away from the work
I had in hand. It was impressed upon me from
my earliest years, by one of the best mothers that
ever lived, that I must aim at being a thorough
master of the work by which I got my living ; and
to be that I must concentrate my whole energies
on my work, whatever that might be, to the ex
clusion of every other thing.
Concentration with the exception of
honesty, it covers a larger measure of the
secret of success than any other word.
I once asked a very successful man how
ia6 It s a Good Old World
he was able to get so much done and still
have leisure time.
" I pick up only one paper from my
desk at a time," he said, " and I make it a
point not to lay that paper down until I
have settled the business that it involves."
I was present in his office when a friend
came to offer him a participation in an en
terprise that promised to be very profit
able. He answered:
" I can t do it, Jim. I don t need the
money. And no amount of money could
possibly compensate me for the nuisance
and inefficiency of having to carry two
things on my mind at the same time."
If you want a very good example of
how big things are done, read the descrip
tion of the creation of the world as re
corded in the first chapter of Genesis.
It is a fine little treatise on efficiency.
An enormous job, but no hurry, no rush,
One day the creation of light nothing
else. The next day, the firmament. The
third day, the creation of land and its.
division from the waters.
Hezekiah Is Dead 127
One thing each day, followed by a good
night s sleep, and a full day s rest at the
end of the week.
The world has never improved on that
formula for success.
It was the formula of Hezekiah, who re
fused to dally with side-lines or attempt
more than one thing at a time.
" And in every work that he began he
did it with all his heart and prospered.
THE FINE RARE HABIT OF
LEARNING TO DO
CURIOUS things come to light when
men are dead and the lawyers are
busy with their estates.
Some months ago, in New York, a bank
president died. I had never seen him, but
his name was familiar enough, and I sup
posed that of course he must have left a
Apparently every one else was of the
same opinion, including even the business
associates who knew him best.
Imagine, then, their surprise when it
was discovered that, instead of an estate,
he had left debts of thousands of dollars.
Had he lost heavily in the market?
No; apparently, he never speculated at all.
Foolish investments? No. Women and
Incredible as it seemed, this man whose
income was more than a hundred thousand
Learning to Do Without 129
dollars a year got rid of it all, not in
gambling or dissipation, but in the every
day expenses of living.
He had come up through the various
stages of bank employment to the presi
dency of a great institution; and at every
point in his career his expenses were in ex
cess of his income.
Even when the income crossed the hun
dred-thousand-dollar mark, it was still a
few steps behind. Never for one moment
had he been the master of his life. At a
hundred thousand a year he was as much
the slave of circumstance as any twelve-
dollar-a-week clerk whose expenses are
An extraordinary case, you exclaim.
Yes but extraordinary only in the size
of the figures involved. In all other re
spects the gentleman was typical of a large
percentage of his fellow countrymen.
A general, he was, in the unfortunate
army of those who take orders of their
fears, and march day after day to the
music of a piper whom they can not afford
130 It s a Good Old World
What a curious phenomenon it is that
you can get men to die for the liberty of
the world who will not make the little
sacrifice that is needed to free themselves
from their own individual bondage.
All of us are born into the world free :
and immediately we begin to get ourselves
into slavery to things.
We let the number of things that are
necessary for our daily life multiply to
such an extent that we have neither time
nor money for the things that really count.
I stood the other night in a big store,
looking around at the shelves. And it
came over me with a sudden shock that, of
all the hundreds of articles displayed on
the shelves around me, hardly a single one
was considered a necessity by my grand
None of them were included in the lives
of the ancient Greeks, who gave birth to
more great men than any similar period of
history has been able to produce since.
Once a year at least I like to get down
Thoreau s " Walden " and read it over
again: and I pass on that good tonic to
Learning to Do Without 131
any of you who may not have discovered
Thoreau was a Harvard graduate who
built a hut for himself on the shores of a
little lake near Concord, Massachusetts,
and lived in it for two years and two
For eight months of the period he kept
careful financial records; and in that time
his total expenses, including the cost of his
house, were $61.99, f which he earned by
raising vegetables and by occasional day
labor more than half.
He threw worry out of the window; re
duced his living expenses to a point where
he could provide them with the labor of a
very small part of his days; and so freed
the remainder of his life for reading and
writing and tramps through the woods
and useful thought.
We can not all do what Thoreau did;
but, at least, the war helped us to learn
the lesson of his example.
It set us to questioning of each ele
ment in our lives, Is this worth what I have
been paying for it?
132 It s a Good Old World
And to pondering on the important
truth that no man is so independent as
he who has learned to do without.
IT RUINED MICHELANGELO:
AND IT CAN RUIN YOU
LINCOLN said a wonderfully wise
thing one day.
" I have talked with great men," he
said, " and I cannot see wherein they differ
Too many of us have a distorted notion
of great men : we see them only on their
successful side, and imagine that they have
no other. As a matter of fact, the great
man is precisely like ourselves, a mixture
of success and failure, of joy and deep de
pression. And very often if we would
study him upon the side of his failures, we
might learn more useful lessons than those
that his successes teach.
No greater genius existed in his genera
tion than Michelangelo. With such mag
nificent abilities he should have been a
happy man : yet he was of all men most
miserable. His letters abound in melan
134 It s a Good Old World
What was the secret of his misery?
Failure to apply himself? From boyhood
into old age he worked incessantly.
Extravagance? He denied himself
even the ordinary comforts, to say nothing
of the luxuries of life.
No, his tragedy lay within himself
partly in a pessimistic temperament in
herited from his father, but chiefly in this
fatal weakness : he never had the spiritual
courage to say "No!"
Before he had well begun one work, he
allowed his patrons to force other com
missions upon him. He undertook too
many things. And as a result, in agony
of spirit over promises unfulfilled, over
work begun and left half done, he passed
his miserable days.
Modern society is in a conspiracy to ruin
men as Michelangelo was ruined. It
comes with a thousand conflicting claims.
" Be chairman of this," it asks; or " Go
on this committee "; or " Leave what you
are doing and tackle this new job."
And no man accomplishes anything
really worth while unless he learns early
It Ruined Michelangelo 135
to harden his will and to utter that little
" How did you come to discover the law
of gravitation?" a pretty woman asked
Sir Isaac Newton.
" By constantly thinking about it,
madam," the great man replied.
Newton might have served on a hun
dred committees; he might have invented
a patent churn; he might have made some
money in the stock-market in those years
when he was " constantly thinking " about
gravitation. But he held himself firm to
his single purpose, and did the great thing,
resolutely refusing the thousand tempting
It s a curious fact that most children
learning to talk can say " no " long before
they can utter the syllable " yes." Yet
men find it so easy to say yes and almost
impossible to say no.
In that fact lies the secret of many fail
ures. It ruined Michelangelo that fa
tal inability to say " No! " And it will
ruin any man who does not set himself
resolutely on guard against it.
DON T EXPECT ANYTHING
VERY STARTLING FROM
IN his home one evening I talked with a
successful business man; and he said to
me something like this :
" Each year in business I learn a few
new things; and each year I discover that
a few of the things I learned the year be
fore are not so very true, after all. So
when I come to strike a balance the an
nual increase in wisdom is n t anything
very great. But of four truths I am en
" Very early in my business career I
learned that it is never wise to say: I
will never work for so and so, or I will
never live in such and such a place.
Youth sets out with a good many such
prejudices which it regards as convictions.
But as time goes on, one discovers that no
man ever had a point of pride that was not
An Oracle 137
a weakness to him. I will work for any
one to-day who is honest and who has
something to give me in the way of ad
vancement or knowledge that I do not al
ready have; and I will live anywhere that
my work calls me.
" A little later I added this second bit of
knowledge. I quit trying to tell other men
what they ought to do with their lives. A
man s career is a matter to be settled by
himself, his wife and his Creator. I will
help when my help is asked, if I can; but
I will not take the presumptuous chance
of sticking my finger into the wheels of
any other life unless I am specifically in
"Later still I concluded never to say
to any man, If you don t do so and so,
I 11 quit because one day one of them
answered quite properly, All right, then
" Fourthly and finally," he said, " I have
learned never to slight a young man.
There is a double reason for that, of
course. In the first place, it s good re
ligion. Every older man ought to be a
138 It s a Good Old World
kind of unofficial trustee for youth. But
in the second place it s good business. It
may be an exaggeration to say that any
boy can become President of the United
States. But it s certain that any office boy
may be purchasing agent or general man
ager or president of his company ten years
from now. And when he arrives, I want
him on my side."
Nothing very startling in all this, you
say; not a very imposing array of knowl
edge for a man to have gathered in thirty-
five or forty years. Very true; but the
more you listen to successful men, the more
you are impressed by the fact that the only
bits of truth they value are truths so old
that most of us learned them all in Sunday
Honesty is the best policy; no hard work
is ever lost; what a man sows, that shall he
reap these are about all that the aver
age wise man is sure of. And they are
The Greeks had an institution which
they called an oracle a place where the
voice of the gods might be heard. Usu-
An Oracle 139
ally the utterances of the oracle ran some
what after this fashion: "Go at the
enemy as hard as you can, and if you fight
better than he does, you will win."
Millionaires are the modern popular
oracles; a good many men gather around
them, thinking that some day the great one
will give them a tip by means of which they
may succeed. I have listened to several
millionaires; and what they say is usually
very sound and true so sound and true,
indeed, that it has been long ago accepted
by the race and may be found in any good
ON HEARING FROM MANY
IN an unguarded moment, when I was
the editor of a magazine, I invited let
ters on the subject "My Marriage";
and the letters came, not in hundreds, but
I confess that the reading of them left
me with a certain sense of depression
so large a percentage were from wives
who do not like their husbands, and from
husbands who wish they had never married
Of course, I might have expected that,
if I had thought about it in advance; and
there is in it no real cause for discourage
Happy nations, according to the old say
ing, have brief histories; and the same is
true of contented couples.
" Oh, nothing ever happens to us," the
Unhappy Husbands and Wives 141
happy wife or husband says, a bit wistfully.
" We just float along from day to day; we
hardly know where the time goes."
But the individual who is not happy sup
poses himself something unique in the
world. He broods over his troubles; he
wonders why Heaven has set him apart
from all mankind to bear so great a disap
pointment. And, feeling thus, he em
braces every opportunity to ease his spirit
There are many men and women in the
world, of course, who have no right to ex
pect to be happily married.
They misinterpret marriage. They em
bark upon it as if on some sort of picnic;
whereas a single moment s serious thought
ought to convince them that it is the great
est and most difficult profession in the
They remind me of the man who was
asked if he could play the violin, and an
swered: " I don t know; I never tried."
Marriage is not a pleasure excursion.
It is a business to be studied; a kingdom to
be conquered; a mine of precious treasure,
142 It s a Good Old World
which reveals itself only in response to
Men who study years to master the com
paratively simple professions of law or
medicine or journalism suppose that the
mere accident of their being males is all
that is necessary to make them successful
Girls who have never learned to carry
through capably the simplest operations of
life dance blithely into the most intimate
and subtle and baffling of human relation
ships. And, naturally, there are wrecks.
Sorrow and disappointment in some de
gree come to all of us, deserving or unde
serving: no couple can hope completely to
avoid them. But there are certain rocks
in the channel of the good ship Marriage
that ought to be cleared away at the very
start. The rock called Money, for ex
" I hate to ask John for money," said a
wife to me last week, " because if I don t
ask him I 11 probably get more."
No woman ought ever to have to ask
her husband for money.
Unhappy Husbands and Wives 143
She ought to have a salary a fixed,
regular part of her husband s income, de
ducted first, not last; and apportioned to
her with the understanding that it is hers,
not because he gives it to her, but because
she has earned it by her contribution to
their common life.
Until the world recognizes that the busi
ness of contributing children to the race
and training them is the most splendid of
all professions, far more important than
anything that any man does in any office,
and ought to be paid for accordingly, we
shall continue to have wives " asking "
their husbands for money, and marriages
going into the discard on that account.
Most of all, no man or woman can be
permanently happy unless each has within
himself some green pastures on which his
soul can feed; some reservoir of content
ment and self-sufficiency, created by him
self for his own refreshment.
The restlessness of the modern woman
that we read so much about, the envy of
men and women toward people who seem
better off, rise largely from the false as-
144 It s a Good Old World
sumption that what is outside a man or
woman has the power to create or destroy
Nothing outside yourself can make you
happy, if you are barren inside.
" The kingdom of heaven is within you."
On that great undying truth successful
marriages always have been and always
must be built.
WHAT MAKES MEDIUM-SIZED
A MAN had died, and the whole city
mourned his going. At a club we
were discussing him, reminding ourselves
of one characteristic and another that had
endeared him to us.
Finally a man whose name is famous
" You know our friend hardly had a fair
start," he said quietly. " Nature did not
mean to let him be a big man. She
equipped him with very ordinary talents.
" I can remember the first time I heard
him speak. It was a very stumbling per
formance. Yet, in his later years, we re
garded him as one of the real orators of
" His mind was neither very original nor
very profound; but he managed to build a
great institution, and the imprint of his
influence is on ten thousand lives."
146 It s a Good Old World
The speaker stopped, and we urged him
" How then do you account for his suc
cess? " we asked.
" It is simple," he replied. " He
merely forgot himself. When he spoke,
his imperfections were lost in the glow of
his enthusiasm. When he organized, the
fire of his faith burned away all obstacles.
He abandoned himself utterly to his task;
and the task molded him into greatness."
A few days afterward I spent some
hours in the home of a very wealthy man.
" Young men come and ask me to use
my influence in their behalf to secure them
this or that promotion," he said. " And
I am amazed, not by their requests, but by
the attitude toward life which prompts
" I feel like saying to them : The very
fact that you spend your time and thought
campaigning for another position proves
that you are not worthy even of the posi
tion that you now hold.
Then he went on to speak about his own
career, which started with the salary of
Medium-Sized Men 147
an office boy and has carried him so far.
" I never asked for an increase in sal
ary," he said; " I never asked for promo
tion or even thought about it. I had only
one single thought how to make that
company as great and as influential as it
possibly could be. I believed that by ex
tending its influence we were extending hu
man happiness; more than anything else, I
wanted to see it reach people in every
corner of the world.
We made that vision come true; and
those of us who achieved it discovered
that the company to which we had given
our lives, had given them back to us a
hundred times richer than our own selfish
thought and planning could possibly have
It is Emerson who somewhere says that
the average run of men fret and worry
themselves into nameless graves, while
here and there a great unselfish soul for
gets itself into immortality.
Many hundred years before, a much
wiser Man had said: " For whosoever
will save his life shall lose it; and whoso-
148 It s a Good Old World
ever will lose his life for my sake shall
A rather cryptic utterance; so contra
dictory in sound that the majority of men
pass it by unheeding.
But now and then there comes a man
who, sensing its truth, harnesses his life to
it, forgetting every selfish thought and
Often he knows himself to be a little
man; or, at best, only medium-sized.
But the world, beholding the marvel of
his influence, remembers him and calls him
THE GREATEST SPORTING
PROPOSITION IN THE
SIR WALTER RALEIGH was one of
the ablest and most attractive men of
his time. Yet he made this fundamental
mistake : he picked out the wrong thing to
Looking about to see what was most
worth while in life, he decided for fame
and fortune and thought they might most
surely be secured through the favor of
Queen Elizabeth. For her favor he de
meaned himself, and neglected his wife,
and was constantly in petty intrigues un
becoming his talents.
At the end the fickle queen turned upon
him and cast him into London Tower.
And her successor sent him to the block.
Every age has its quota of Sir Walters:
strong men who trade their lives for this
or that, and at the close have traded them
150 It s a Good Old World
And no man has more important busi
ness than to determine very early what is
really worth having being sure that the
object he selects is one that can be de
pended upon to satisfy him not merely
through his full-blooded years, but up
through the testing hours at the last.
What is such an object? Money?
I wish that every young man in the
world could see, as I once saw, a man who
had bartered his soul for money, and who
woke one morning to discover that it had
vanished overnight. Surely a possession
that can so quickly fly away, and that leaves
such shriveled souls behind it, cannot be
the supreme good.
Fame? Political preferment? Horace
Greeley was as famous as any man of his
period; he let his ambition carry him into
the race for the Presidency, and losing the
race, died of a broken heart.
There is a finer formula than either of
these. Plato stated it, centuries ago:
I therefore, Callicles, am persuaded by these
accounts, and consider how I may exhibit my
Greatest Sporting Proposition 151
soul before the judge in a healthy condition.
Wherefore, disregarding the honors that most
men value, and looking to the truth, I shall
endeavor to live as virtuously as I can; and
when I die, to die so. And I invite all other
men, to the utmost of my power; and you too
I in turn invite to this contest, which I affirm
surpasses all contests here.
A great game in which the player is a
man s best self on the one side, and on
the other all the temptations and the
disappointments and the buffeting of cir
The game of making yourself the best
you can be, let Fate say what it will; of
so investing the years and the talents you
have as to cause the largest number of
people to be glad, the fewest to be sorry,
and coming to the end with the least regret.
" Be diligent," wrote Polycarp to Igna
tius. " Be diligent. Be sober as God s
athlete. Stand like a beaten anvil."
I do not know how any man can stand
like a beaten anvil who has only money
to stand upon; or only a reputation that
may vanish as quickly as it came; or a
152 It s a Good Old World
ribbon which is pinned on his coat to-day
and may be taken off to-morrow.
But let him have invested his life in the
mastery and the cultivation of his own
best self, and he has laid up riches that
cannot be lost.
Whatever obstacles, whatever disap
pointments may come, are merely added
chances against him, contributing to the
zest of the contest.
And in the end he has this surpassing
reward, a clear conscience and a vision
unafraid the prize of the victor in the
greatest sporting proposition in the world.
TO A CAN OF BEANS PLANTED
AND CANNED BY OURSELVES
IT is five o clock on a winter afternoon.
Looking out from my office on the
fifteenth floor, I see thousands of lights
in the offices all about me. Thousands of
offices, all full of people.
And I wonder again to myself, as often
before, how they all live. Through what
intricate stages of evolution have we come
from the days when our ancestors raised
their own food, made their own shoes and
clothes, and lived their simple, self-con
tained and self-supporting lives!
What millions of artificial wants we
have created to support this vast organiza
tion of modern business !
Thousands of people packed into
great hives, one tier above another
Retailers living off wholesalers; whole
salers living off manufacturers : and all liv
ing off the farmer.
154 It s a Good Old World
What would happen if for one single
year the farmers should decide to quit
work and come to town?
I watch the lights flicker out as one man
after another closes his desk and starts for
And in my heart I can not repress a
slight feeling of superiority toward them
poor dependent folk. They are going
home to meals that come to them only by
grace of the good nature and effort of
honest tillers of the soil.
Part of my meal will come to me in like
manner. But part of it
Part of it is beans. Last summer I
delved in the earth and raised them with
my own effort. And in the kitchen of our
little white house we imprisoned their
flavor and fragrance.
Only food raised by one s own toil is
All beans have strings all but the
beans that we raise on our own place.
I have eaten in the homes of the mighty,
and never yet have I encountered sandless
spinach. But the sand in the spinach that
To a Can of Beans 155
we raise ah, just a trace of sand. A su
perior, far more edible sand. A kind of
healthy sand, to give strength and fiber
to the system.
As a favorite melody played in the eve
ning brings back the memory of glad days,
so those melodies in cans our beans and
corn and spinach carry to us, even into
the twilight of winter, the summer hours
that were, and are to be again.
Hours when we woke up with bird notes
in our ears and the fragrance of the ram
bler calling to us. And after breakfast,
taking our hoe in hand, we went out to the
little plot of land which a few weeks ago
had been nothing, and which by our effort
had become a part of the battle-line of Eu
rope, a feeder of the world.
The winters no longer have any terror
for me: I cut them short at either end.
For the beans of last summer s canning
carry the sunshine of that garden clear into
February: and in February the seed cat
alogs arrive, with the scent and sunshine of
the garden to come.
I commend to you that system of rob-
156 It s a Good Old World
bing winter of its terrors: I counsel you to
start to-day to warm the shaded places of
your soul with the thought of next sum
mer s garden.
There is greater need for food this year
than ever in the modern world so you
shall have the satisfaction of those whose
duty is well done.
There will be better health for you in
the digging and that alone is reward
But, more than all, you shall have that
special sense of independence as you walk
among the mass of your dependent fellow
men the proud elevation of one who
needs not to ask of any man, since in his
own cellar he hath beans, raised on his own
good soil, canned by his own right hand.
LINCOLN PULLED THROUGH,
AND SO SHALL WE
ONE of the wisest observations in the
world was made by our old friend
" Lookin around me, I see many great
changes takin place," he said; "but
lookin back fifty years, I see hardly any
change at all."
Unless one gets a certain perspective
on what is taking place about him, his life
will be one succession of panics.
It is necessary to take a long look; to
realize that human nature does not change ;
that in any age the same set of circum
stances will produce about the same re
sults; and that, slowly but surely, certain
great principles are working themselves
out in the world.
This is the value of reading history.
And right now is a good time to do a little
158 It s a Good Old World
reading of history; a few hours spent with
a Life of Lincoln will be especially reas
You are worried because the Govern
ment at Washington seems so dawdling
See how Lincoln dawdled with the rebel
lion: postponing the relief of Sumter un
til it was too late; allowing things to drift
while the South armed itself with govern
ment equipment and gained the advantage
of superior preparation.
It depressed you to see a United States
Senator making a vulgar attack upon a
man like Herbert Hoover, who sacrificed
every personal interest to serve the nation.
All right. Before you give up hope,
turn back and read the attacks that were
made upon Lincoln.
Our enemies of the late war were three
thousand miles away; but the enemies of
1 86 1 were at the very door of the Capital;
and still Congressmen talked and Senators
worried about their patronage.
Your faith in democracy is shaken be
cause it seems impossible for the politicians
Lincoln Pulled Through 159
to put aside their petty interests even in
the face of national emergency.
Lincoln, wrestling with the problem of
saving the Union, was so besieged by of
fice-seeking politicians that he exclaimed:
" If the twelve apostles were to be chosen
again, I suppose they would have to be
distributed according to geographical di
And at another time he burst out upon
a delegation of Senators who wanted Sew-
ard s head:
You gentlemen, to hang Mr. Seward,
would destroy the government! "
If the state of the public mind for the
past few months were to be represented by
a chart, the line would look like the record
of a fever patient s temperature.
One day we were excited by reports of
German weakness and Allied success; and
up went our hopes of early peace. The
next day, with no special developments,
our thoughts turned to the inefficiencies of
Washington, and we were thrown into
A long view is necessary: the sooner we
160 It s a Good Old World
train ourselves to take it, the happier and
more effective we will be.
The war was won by the Allies, be
cause democracy fought on their side, and
the whole trend of the world since the Re
formation has been toward democracy.
But it had its ups and downs: there
were days of good news and days of bad.
The wise man held his spirits in check on
both days, looking toward the final result,
and allowing himself to be neither unduly
elated nor unduly depressed.
A monarchy, as some one said, is like a
trim, tight yacht. It is easily handled,
and those on board are dry and warm.
But once it hits a reef it is a total loss.
A democracy is a raft; those on board
have their feet in the water most of the
time, but they can not sink.
The very things that serve to make us
inefficient in war free speech, unlimited
debate, a government organized for peace
instead of war are the very things that
make life worth living for us in normal
And one reason why we pray for the de-
Lincoln Pulled Through 161
mocratization of the world is just because
democracies make war so ineptly. Our
hope for the future is founded on this
that before two democracies can get in
shape to hurt each other very much the
passions of their people will cool.
Be patient with the ineptness, the ineffi
ciencies, and the extravagances of democ
racy. Lincoln pulled through in spite of
them; and so shall we.
THEY WHO TARRY BY THE
LOOKING back over the history of
some of the previous wars in the
world, I came across the campaign which
David waged against the Amalekites.
They had swarmed down upon his home
district during his absence on important
business, and had burned his city, Ziklag.
When he returned, it was to find smoking
ruins, and the women of the city gone, in
cluding even his own wives.
So he set out with six hundred men, to
seek revenge. Four hundred men he kept
with him to do the fighting, and two hun
dred he ordered to " tarry by the stuff."
The battle was fought, the Amalekites
defeated, and the victors returned laden
with their spoils.
They were flushed and greedy with their
conquest : they looked with scorn upon the
two hundred men who had not fought.
Why should they who had risked their
"Who Tarry By the Stuff 163
lives divide with those who had remained
But David, looking at both groups of
men, those who had borne the burden of
battle and those who at home had kept
the country and its possessions safe, re
" As his part is that goeth down to the
battle, so shall his part be that tarrieth by
the stuff: they shall part alike."
And the account continues : " It was so
from that day forward, that he made it a
statute and an ordinance for Israel unto
I am thinking of those men who wanted
to go to war and couldn t; of those who
were compelled to " tarry by the stuff."
I know how they feel : I have talked with
dozens of them.
They read the stirring news of war in
every paper : they heard the bands play and
saw the flags wave : one after another,
their friends appeared in uniform.
And inside themselves the fight went on
^ the call to the colors against the call of
the duty that lay at home.
1 64 It s a Good Old World
I wish I might point out to those men
this one great truth :
Wars are full of curious phenomena:
and one of the most curious is this that
often the nation that wins a war really
Germany won the war with France in
1870. Her troops marched home tri
umphant: out of Paris rolled a great train
loaded with the indemnity of millions of
And what happened?
The prosperity that followed that in
demnity corrupted the moral fiber of Ger
many. The flush of conquest made mili
tarism the national god. Out of that ill-
gotten victory grew all the crassness that
has had its final fruitage in the war just
And France, shorn of her egotism by
defeat, forced by her indemnity to practise
thrift, grew stronger and firmer and finer
than she had ever been before.
The years that followed our Civil War
make up the least attractive period of our
"Who Tarry By the Stuff 165
Go through the country and you can pick
out almost unerringly the houses that were
constructed in that period ugly archi
tecture, mirroring ugly thoughts.
Politically it was the period of the
bloody shirt: spiritually it was noisy with
agnosticism: financially it saw speculation
and corruption, ending in the panic of 73.
We won the late war on the battle-field.
The question is, shall we win it also at
Shall there emerge from the war a
thriftier nation, living more simply and
more wholesomely; a more unselfish na
tion, trained to sacrifice; a more spiritual
nation, dedicated to a great ideal?
The man who could not go to war, but
who devoted himself unselfishly to service
here at home, need not feel that he had no
part in the great conflict.
Let him not for one moment forget that
he was helping to make America s military
victory a moral and a spiritual victory as
Helping even while he " tarried by the
THAT FINE OLD FAKE ABOUT
THE GOOD OLD DAYS
SEVERAL years ago I had a talk with
a veteran of the Civil War.
I can see him now as he sat on his
piazza, stroking his white whiskers and
talking to me lugubriously.
A crowd of high-school boys passed us,
shouting and jostling each other: and the
old man, watching them with sad eyes,
made them the text of his dissertation.
" The moral fiber of our youth is de
teriorating," he said sorrowfully. Why,
at their age I was carrying a gun in the
defense of my country. When I look at
those thoughtless boys and think what
might happen to our country if another
war should come, I give you my word, sir,
The good old man is gone beyond all
shuddering: but I wish so much he might
The Good Old Days 167
For another war came.
And the poor old country that he wor
ried about had nothing but those thought
less boys to depend on.
Nothing but those thoughtless boys
indeed. One day I picked up the local
paper from that town, and there were their
pictures hundreds of them, all in uni
Transformed overnight from thought
less boys into men by their country s need.
Just as he and his companions were trans
formed, fifty years ago. The same sort
of crisis, the same boy-stuff, and the same
Of all the fine old fakes that have en
slaved the human mind, there is none
greater than the myth of the " good old
The Greeks were subject to it, looking
back always to their fabled " Golden Age."
The Hebrews had it also. They wor- :
shiped the memory of Abraham who was
dead, and made life miserable for Moses
who was alive.
Woe unto you ! because ye build the
1 68 It s a Good Old World
tombs of the prophets, and garnish the
sepulchers of the righteous," said Jesus,
" and are yourselves the children of them
which killed the prophets."
We Americans are subject to the same
We look back to the great departed days
of the Revolution, when every man was a
patriot, and nobody thought of anything
but the glory of his country.
Yet only the other day, in the letters of
one of the founders of the Republic to an
other one, I read this sentence:
" What a lot of scoundrels we had in
that second Congress, did n t we? "
A successful man recently said to me :
" My partner is very gloomy about the
national outlook. He thinks that the gov
ernment is in the hands of fools, and that
we face very disastrous times."
And I said to him: " I have never met
your partner, but I will describe him to you.
He is about fifty-five years old, and his
health is not as good as it was, and he has
quite a good deal of property."
My friend acknowledged the portrait.
The Good Old Days 169
" But how did you know? " he asked.
And I told him that you may guess a
man s age by knowing in what direction his
eyes are pointed.
Youth looks straight ahead into the
future, firm-eyed and confident. Middle
age is likely to look to the side, saying to
itself: " So-and-So, who walks beside me,
seems to be better off than I."
But this is the sign of old age that it
looks behind and talks sadly of the " good
Let not that baneful sign be fastened on
you : let no one convince you that the world
does not progress.
For we live, as President Wilson says,
in a time that calls for " forward looking
men "< men who, looking through the
eyes of faith and confidence, can see the
coming of the " good old days" just over
the next hill-top straight ahead.
EVERYBODY HAS SOMETHING
ERE is a passage from a very dis
" If what I feel were equally distributed to
the whole human family there would not be one
cheerful face on earth. Whether I shall ever be
better I cannot tell. I awfully forbode I shall
not. To remain as I am is quite impossible. I
must die to be better, it appears to me."
Another man equally spiritless wrote
" Why, forsooth, am I in the world ? Since
death must come to me, why should it not be as
well to kill myself. . . . Since I began life in
suffering misfortune and nothing gives me pleas
ure, why should I endure these days, when noth
ing I am concerned in prospers? "
Poor miserable failures. When the
price of white paper is so high why should
I be allowed to soil a page with the out
pourings of such incompetents?
Everybody Has Something
Well, the author of the first passage
made a considerable reputation for him
self in later life; his name was Abraham
Lincoln. And the other cry of defeat was
uttered by a gentleman named Napoleon
There is a very popular notion in the
world that men are divided into two classes
the fortunate and the unfortunate.
In the one class are those to whom every
good gift has been given. They have
health, and joy in living and the natural
capacity for achievement.
The other class includes those who, by
some handicap beyond their ability to con
quer, are kept from being the successes
that they ought to be.
This is the popular notion, I say, a no
tion invented by us ordinary folks as an
alibi for our own short-comings. We like
to assume that the reasons for our medioc
rity are beyond our control that if only
we had been given more health or more
money or more education or more some
thing or other, we would have been some
thing very different. It pleases us to in-
172 It s a Good Old World
dulge ourselves in envy toward those who
just could n t help succeeding.
But what are the facts?
If any man ever lived and attained re
markable success who did not have some
serious handicap to contend with, I have
failed to discover that man in my reading.
Beethoven could not possibly become a
great musician. He began to grow deaf
Pope had a wonderful alibi for not try
ing to amount to anything. He was a
Demosthenes stammered; Julius Caesar
had fits; Lamb was tied to a clerk s desk;
Byron had a club foot; Dr. Johnson was a
Whether success is worth the effort and
sacrifice to attain it has been much debated.
You and I may, if we choose, decide that a
comfortable mediocrity is the most satis
factory answer to the problem of living.
We have a perfect right to that decision.
But let s not fool ourselves with the idea
that some handicap is responsible for our
mediocrity. The difference between great
Everybody Has Something 173
men and the rest of us is chiefly a difference
of spirit of determination and the will
that refuses to recognize defeat.
Nature is a very jealous distributor of
gifts. Nobody gets a loo /o equipment
for life. The game is to see how much we
can do with the cards we have to play.
The real good sports do not talk about
their handicaps; but you can depend on it
that if you knew all the facts you would
discover that every one of them has some
WORKING FOR IT AND
MAKING IT WORK
THIS is the tale of two farmers, both
of whom are dead. As a youngster
I visited one of them. He and his wife
were earnest folks, who worked hard every
iay and saved money. The world thought
them honest and thrifty.
But honest and thrifty are better words
than either of them deserved; penurious
and sordid describe them better. Never
in all my life have I entered a home where
the worship of money was so constant and
At meal time the talk was all of the cost
of food, until the lettuce looked like dollar
bills to me, and the butter gleamed like
For money the woman denied herself
every comfort and satisfaction, dying
dried-up at forty-five. A little money
spent for medical care would have saved
Working for It
the life of the son of the house, but the
family debated the expenditure until it
was too late, and sacrificed the boy.
So for the last twenty years of his life
the old man lived alone, figuring over
again the hoard that might have repre
sented so much in happiness and growth
He told me once that he had more than
$16,000 in the bank; and even then he did
not understand that the $16,000 was the
price of his soul.
The other farmer left a good deal less
than $16,000 when he passed out; most of
the money he might have hoarded had been
invested in things more enduring than
stocks and bonds.
Some of it went into the education of
his children, who are the finest, most prog
ressive citizens in their county to-day.
Some of it went into books and into trips,
while he and his wife were still young
enough to get the largest enjoyment out
of the trips.
He had no slacker dollars which moth
and rust corrupt; every dollar that passed
176 It s a Good Old World
through his hands had to do its maximum
work in buying happiness and friendships,
and family pleasure and growth. So,
open-heartedly, he lived, and died as one
who knew full well that life had withheld
no good thing from him.
John Ruskin tells this incident:
" Lately, in the wreck of a Californian
ship, one of the passengers fastened a belt
about him with two hundred pounds of
gold in it, with which he was found after
ward at the bottom. Now, as he was sink
ing, had he the gold, or had the gold
We are all passengers working our way
on a ship that is destined in the end to sink.
Some of us work for money, some make
their money work and in the difference
between those phrases lies often the differ
ence between a successful and an unsuc
For real wealth, as Ruskin says again,
" is the possession of the valuable by the
valiant." It may consist in gold and sil
ver, or in books, or a home, or the love of
little children, or the capacity to laugh.
Working for It 177
But it is never mere money, hoarded at
the sacrifice of life.
Such money no man ever owns: it owns
the owner, works him pitilessly, robs him
of the joys of life, and in the end destroys
WHEN MEN COME UP TO
A VERY prominent manufacturer of
pianos and pipe organs died some
years ago. And this is the story that is
told of him.
He was very near to the end; the family
were gathered about, when a maid entered
the room hesitatingly and announced that
Joe, the organ tuner from the factory, was
at the door.
" Send him up," said the dying man; and
Joe came up.
" Joe, I want you to go down stairs and
put the organ in first class condition," he
commanded. " We expect to have a large
gathering of people here in a few days, and
every note must be right."
Can you picture the scene? Does n t it
make you a little prouder of belonging to
the human race, when you think about it?
Some weeks ago the directors of a na-
Up to the End 179
tional institution held their annual meeting
in New York. The President, who has
been kept alive for the past five years only
by the power of an indomitable will, ad
" In order that the interests of the insti
tution may be conserved, I feel that you
should at this time consider who is to be
my successor," he said. And with them
he discussed quite impersonally various
candidates who might fill his place when he
should be dead.
The doctors have told him that he can
not possibly live more than another two
years, and may die at any moment. He
knows their verdict: it affects him not at
all. Up to the last breath he will keep
going, all thought of himself buried in his
devotion to his task; and he will die as he
has lived, fighting to the last breath.
There are those who run from the
thought of death, as children run from the
dark. No magazine should mention the
word, they say; it is an " unpleasant sub
ject " morbid and depressing.
On the contrary it seems to me that there
i8o It s a Good Old World
is nothing more inspiring than to see the
way in which the brave men and women of
the world have walked unflinchingly to the
" My friends, I die in peace, and with
sentiments of universal love and kindness
toward all men," said Robert Emmet, the
great Irish patriot.
With those words he shook hands with
some persons on the scaffold, presented
his watch to the hangman and assisted in
adjusting the rope around his own neck.
" Carry my bones before you on your
march, for the rebels will not be able to
endure the sight of me alive or dead,"
Edward I instructed his son.
Even at the end of the path, his eyes
were fastened on the future and fear was
swallowed up in his determination for the
success of his enterprise.
Draw a line through human history at
the time of the birth of Christ, and com
pare the last words of men who died be
fore that date with the words of those who
passed on afterwards. The contrast is
Up to the End 181
Before He came men went shuddering
into oblivion. After Him the great souls
of the world passed through the gate as
conquerors, merely changing their armour
in preparation for another and more glori
Sir Henry Havelock, approaching his
last hour, called his son to the bedside:
" Come, my son," he cried, " and see
how a Christian can die."
The object of Christianity is to teach
men better how to live; but it would have
justified itself a thousand fold had it done
nothing except to teach men how worthily
Not as victims; not as baffled players
in a game where all must finally lose; but
as men a little lower than the angels
faithful, self-confident and unafraid.
IF YOU CAN T FALL IN LOVE
WITH YOUR JOB, FOR GOOD
NESS SAKE CHANGE IT
A YOUNG man writes me this letter :
" I am employed in the post-office
at $100 a month. The salary is sufficient
to keep my family comfortable, but I sim
ply loathe the work. I see no chance of
promotion in it, and it demands so many
of my evenings that I have practically no
home life at all. Don t you think that
under these circumstances I am justified in
looking around for something more con
My answer to him is : Every day you
remain in that post-office is a day lost out
of your life. You are to live only once.
What is the very best thing a man can get
out of life?
To be happy in his work and at home.
You are happy neither in your work
nor at home. You are wasting the only
existence that will ever be yours in this
world. You will come to the end of your
In Love e with Your Job 183
road and, looking back, will say to your
self: "I was cheated. Other men had
life and happiness: I had only life."
No matter what the immediate sacri
fice, find your real place in the world
the job that will call out your whole best
For until you have found it you bear
on your forehead the mark of discontent
that employers shun. The stars in their
courses fight against you.
" No matter what your work is, let it
be yours," said Emerson. " No matter if
you are a tinker or a preacher or a black
smith or president, let what you are doing
be organic, let it be in your bones, and
you open the door by which the affluence of
heaven and earth shall stream into you."
I know of nothing so inspiring as to
read the lives of men who were in love with
Agassiz, the great naturalist, used to
say that he believed " the fishes would die
for him just to give him their skeletons."
Edmund Halley, the astronomer, was
another happy workman.
184 It s a Good Old World
Finding, in his youth, that other as
tronomers had undertaken to catalogue the
stars of the northern hemisphere, he loaded
a telescope on a boat and started to the
southern hemisphere. On shipboard he
was busy every minute, and made impor
Then it occurred to him that if one
could study the transit of Venus that
is, observe Venus at the time when her
orbit crosses the orbit of the sun one
could gather data from which to figure the
weight of the sun, its distance from the
earth, and many other important facts
about the solar system.
But the next transit of Venus was not
to occur until 1769. It was almost certain
that Halley could not live that long.
As a matter of fact, he died in 1742.
But when 1769 rolled round, the as
tronomers of that day found all ready and
waiting for them the formulas which Hal-
ley had prepared.
The man who had loved his work so
whole-heartedly in life lived on triumphant
In Love with Your Job 185
over death. His devotion had won him
I should want to be paid at least $50,-
ooo a year to be president of a brewery or
a civil engineer. Because I hate beer and
But I write editorials at a few dollars
less a year, because I love it.
And, loving it, I know that I shall
some day make a comfortable living.
For there is a competency for any man
in any job in the world into which he can
put his whole self enthusiastically.
" He did it with all his heart," as I have
quoted of Hezekiah before, " and pros
THE BUSINESS OF DISTRIBUTING
MEDALS HAS RATHER GOT
INTO A RUT
I MET him in the smoking car, and he
told me he was a steel worker, on his
way to find a job in one of the new ship
yards. I remarked that the wages must
be very large in the shipyards.
" On the contrary," he answered, " I
shall be making less than I made at home
and I 11 be away from my family be
" But I had to do it," he continued, and
his eyes flashed as he spoke. " It s my
way of doing my part my contribution
to the men that are fighting to make this
a safe world for my kids."
When he left the train I reflected that
this is one of the unfortunate facts of war
that it calls forth the sacrifice of the
whole nation, and honors the sacrifice of
only a very few.
Distributing Medals 187
We have the Congressional medal for
the man who, in one moment of valor,
hurls himself over the trench; and nobly,
in truth, does he deserve it. But where
is the medal for the man who, day after
day, quietly, unobtrusively, does his job,
as conscientiously as if the very safety of
the Republic were dependent on it?
The farther I go in the world the more
I distrust the mere outward signs of great
ness the titles and the bank rolls and the
More and more I pin my faith to the
spirit in which a man s life job is done.
" If God were to send two angels to
earth," said Stephen Tying, " one to sit
on the throne of England and the other to
sweep the streets of London, the service
of the two would be equally honored in
I am not writing to reconcile men who
have failed, to failure; I have no sympathy
with any man who weakly contents himself
with being less in the world than his best.
But I grow very impatient with the kind
of talk and writing which would make us
1 88 It s a Good Old World
believe that there is only one sort of cour
age the courage of battlefield; and only
one sort of success the success of money,
Every man has in his heart the seeds of
courage; and every man the possibilities of
It may be success in finance or in brick
laying; in government or in gardening. It
matters not: the measure of it is the same.
And that measure consists not in wealth
or titles, but in a man s own self-respect,
his own deep-lying consciousness that he
has, with the tools that were given him,
done his level best.
There lived one time a man named
Moses whose experience with democracy
was not altogether encouraging.
He saved his people from slavery; and
a good part of the time they grumbled at
him for doing it.
" Would to God that all the Lord s peo
ple were prophets ! " he exclaimed one
day. By which I take it that Re meant,
"Would to God there were a spark of
divinity in them that would make them
Distributing Medals 189
capable of wider vision, a larger measure
Had he been able to see a little deeper,
Moses might have discovered that his wish
was fulfilled: that there is in every man
precisely the divinity for which he yearned.
War discovers that divinity as no other
great experience can. All around me I
see merchants, and day laborers, and farm
ers who have risen to a height of self-
sacrifice which is a revelation to themselves
and to all who know them.
It is our misfortune that there is no out
ward symbol with which to reward that
splendor. The business of awarding
medals has fallen into certain well-defined
Perhaps some day we shall see more
clearly and reward with greater wisdom,
honoring equally the sacrifice of the bat
tlefield and the sacrifice at home.
For both are sparks of the same divin
ity twin manifestations of the presence
of the same great Oversoul.
THE FINEST INVESTMENT YOU
CAN MAKE IS TO HELP THE
RIGHT YOUNG MAN FIND THE
IN an office not far from mine is a man
thirty-six years old whose title is " Of
So far as salary is concerned he is not
a failure. He makes a living for himself
and family; he carries a little life insur
ance and saves a little money.
But in his heart he knows he has failed;
he is, a woeful, pathetic misfit.
Nature intended him for a farmer: he
wanted to go to an agricultural college,
and his father sent him to a business school
instead. The call of the soil is in his ears,
and he must stifle it with the click of a
He is one of the vast army of those
whose brief time on this earth has been
largely lost because they never found the
work for which they were made.
The Finest Investment 191
When I consider how vast that army is,
and the bitterness of its tragedy, I marvel
that fathers do not consider the question
of their sons careers with prayer and fast
Instead of which there are many men
who treat the lives of their sons as though
they were mere pawns in the game, to be
moved lightly here or there.
Michelangelo wanted to be an artist:
from his earliest days in school he neg
lected everything to be busy with his pen.
Yet his father and uncles, far from wel
coming his interest as a direct gift from
Heaven, " beat him cruelly, for they hated
the profession of artist, and, in their ig
norance of the nobility of art, it seemed a
disgrace to have one in the house."
John Adams s father tried by main force
to settle the boy at a cobbler s bench for
Handel s father despised music and
would not have a musical instrument in
Tennyson s grandfather, tossing the lad
ten shillings for an elegy on his grand-
192 It s a Good Old World
mother, remarked: "There, that s the
first money you ever earned by your poetry,
and, take my word for it, it will be the
When Lowell s father learned that his
son had won the prize offered by Harvard
University for the finest poem written by
an undergraduate, he received the news in
" I had hoped," he said sadly, " that
under the steadying influence of college
James would become less flighty."
Lowell spoke out of the depths of per
sonal experience when he wrote:
" It is the vain endeavor to make our
selves what we are not that has strewn his
tory with so many broken purposes and
lives left in the rough."
Not all fathers, by any means, have been
shortsighted. A great majority, fortu
nately for the world, have considered the
selection of the right career by their sons
as the most important problem of their
The business world is full of kindly, big-
visioned men who have given time and
The Finest Investment 193
thought, not merely to guiding their own
sons careers, but also to setting the feet
of other men s sons on the path of success.
There can be no more satisfactory em
ployment. No man could have a finer epi
taph than this: " He was the friend and
helper of young men."
Organizations fail, stocks prove worth
less, the most carefully made investments
too often leak away. But a young life
fitted into its proper place in the world is
an investment whose power goes on
through the years, and even into eternity.
" Blessed is the man who has found his
work," said Carlyle.
And thrice blessed is the man who
helped that man to find it.
THE WORLD IS OWNED BY MEN
WHO CROSS BRIDGES BEFORE
THEY COME TO THEM
A YOUNG man came one day to Lorin
F. Deland, that wise adviser to busi
ness men, and said this: "I have been
three years in the same job, and I feel that
I am entirely lost sight of by my employers.
There is no future ahead of me; I am dis
couraged and hopeless. What shall I
Mr. Deland answered: " I will under
take to help you, but you must promise to
do exactly as I say." The young man
" For thirty days," said Mr. Deland,
" I want you to concentrate every working
minute on the following problem : What
suggestion can I make to my employer by
which he can in the next calendar year in
crease his sales $50,000, or $5,000, or
$500, or $100?
At the end of thirty days the young man
Men Who Cross Bridges 195
returned crestfallen to report that he had
not been able to think of one single sug
Mr. Deland then gave him this problem
for the second month:
" Devote every energy to discovering
some way by which your employer can in
the next year save $5,000, or $500, or $50
in the cost of conducting his affairs."
At the end of the second month the
young man was back again with a second
confession of failure. He said also that
he had decided not to ask for any further
Then Mr. Deland spoke his mind :
So, Mills, you don t care for any more of my
advice [he said]. Well, this time I am going to
give it to you without your wanting it. My boy,
just realize a moment where you stand. With
the enormous amount of clothing business that
is being done, you are not able, though you have
been three years in this house, to increase the
volume of business $100 a year; with the elabor
ate and necessarily wasteful methods in which
that great business is transacted, you are not near
enough to it to point out a better system in any
196 It s a Good Old World
department whereby the small sum of $50 a year
may be saved.
My boy, lie low! Attract just as little atten
tion to yourself as you can. Don t let the man
ager remember that you have been three years in
his employ if you can help it. If he knew how
incapable you are of development or progress he
would change you off for some young man of
greater promise. Lie low, my boy, lie low.
That young man was typical of thou
sands the great unimaginative horde
who have never in the slightest degree de
veloped their imaginations.
I do not like the phrase " never cross a
bridge until you come to it "; it is used by
too many men as a cloak for mental lazi
The world is owned by men who cross
bridges on their imaginations miles and
miles in advance of the procession.
Some men are born with more of imag
ination than others; but it can, by hard
work, be cultivated.
Not by mere day-dreaming, not by lazy
wondering, but by hard study and earnest
Men Who Cross Bridges 197
You and I said to ourselves idly:
wonder what is going to happen when the
war is over."
But one day during the war I had
luncheon with a group of men who said:
" At least a thousand different develop
ments are coming at the close of the war,
each one of which will make men rich.
Beginning to-day we start to study "
I met another man who has recently
been added to the staff of a great concern
engaged in exporting goods to South
That man has never seen South Amer
ica; but on the day war was declared in
Europe he said to himself: "Europe s
trade with South America is coming to us.
I am going to learn everything there is to
know about that continent."
He crossed his bridge four years in ad
Looking into the future, what bridges
do you see?
WE SHALL WIN IF
OUR SENSE OF HUMOR LASTS
A SERIOUS minded reader took me to
task because a remark in an article
of mine during the war seemed to him too
" In ordinary times this might be all
right," he reminded me; "but we are in
the midst of a great war, and it is no time
To which I replied that we were in the
midst of a great war therefore we
should have twice as many jokes and they
should be twice as funny.
Only yesterday I was reading about a
Cabinet meeting held at the White House
in one of the most critical hours of our
history. The incident was recorded by
Secretary Stanton, not a particularly sym
Around the table the various Secretaries
gathered, solemn-faced and silent. To
their amazement, the President, instead of
We Shall Win 199
turning to the business in hand, began read
ing aloud a chapter from the humorous
works of Artemus Ward.
The Cabinet members were too aston
ished to speak: Stanton was tempted to
leave the room in angry protest.
The President, unheeding, read the chap
ter through. Then, laying the book down,,
he heaved a deep sigh and said:
" Gentlemen, why don t you laugh?
With the fearful strain that is upon me
night and day, if I did not laugh I should
die; and you need this medicine as much
So saying, he turned to his tall hat,
which was on the table beside him, and
drew out what Stanton described as a " lit
tle white paper."
That little white paper was the Emanci
The members of the Cabinet never could
fathom the mingling of laughter and tears
that was the secret of Lincoln s greatness.
They were afraid of laughter: they re
garded it as dangerous and in times like
those almost immoral.
200 It s a Good Old World
But Lincoln knew better. Humor to
him as to many another overburdened
man was the great shock-absorber of
life: without its kindly ministrations, the
hard places of the road would have
wrenched his soul beyond endurance.
Napoleon seldom smiled; Cromwell had
little sense of humor. Either of them
would be a dangerous man to handle our
affairs in times like these.
Such men become too profoundly im
pressed with their own importance. And
in the critical moment their self-importance
often betrays their better judgment.
Give us, rather, men like Washington,
who, as Irving writes, frequently leaned
back and " laughed until the tears ran
down his face."
Men like Lincoln, whose point of view
is so detached that they can laugh even at
A saving sense of humor is the fourth
great Christian virtue, says A. C. Benson.
And that is so true that I wish it had been
written in the Bible instead of in one of
Mr. A. C. Benson s books.
We Shall Win 201
A man may have faith and hope and
chanty, and still be a prig and a bore.
Jesus was none of these. He was the
most popular dinner guest in Jerusalem.
No one ever criticized Him for being
too serious minded and respectable. In
stead, He was criticized for dining out too
much, for not compelling His disciples to
fast, and for being too much with the loud
laughing crowd of " publicans and sin
I have some righteous friends who are
going to feel greatly shocked at the con
duct of the saints in Heaven.
They have never read that verse in the
Bible which says :
" He that sitteth in the heavens shall
With all my heart I would urge them to
begin right now even in serious days
like these to cultivate that fourth great
Lest perchance they die, and in a
heaven presided over by a God who dearly
loves a laugh shall find themselves lone
some and ill at ease.
LIVING IN A LIMOUSINE AND
LIVING IN A TUB
THERE was quite a little group of
people on the curb-stone, waiting for
a break in the stream of passing automo
biles: among them two shop-girls and I.
The girls recognized a woman in one of
the limousines as the wife of a very rich
New Yorker; and their comments were dis
I smiled to myself as I listened.
For only a few days before I had been
at a party where the lady in the limousine
was present: and I wished that the girls
might have been there too, and heard the
remarks she made.
She came dressed in a thousand dollars
worth of clothes, with five or ten thousand
dollars worth of jewels sprinkled over her.
And, from the minute of her arrival until
she left, her conversation consisted of
nothing but cynicism and complaint.
She had just moved into a new apart-
A Limousine and a Tub 203
merit: it was noisy, she said, and she hated
The limousine her husband had given
her as a birthday surprise and he ought
to have known that she loathed upholstery
of that color.
She had seen all the new shows, and they
bored her to death.
Of all the bitter, soul-sick people whom
I have ever met she takes first prize: and
the little shop-girls envied her.
What feelings would have been in their
hearts if they had lived in Athens about
400 B. c., and had seen a poorly dressed
man living in a wooden tub?
Pity, probably : perhaps contempt.
Yet, when Alexander the Great visited
that man and offered him any favor in the
world, the man replied that he wanted only
one thing that Alexander should step
out of his sunlight.
A curious old world, is n t it, where a
lady in her limousine, possessed of every
thing, is still dissatisfied: and Diogenes in
his tub, owning nothing, can be so content?
We are on the threshold of a period
204 It s a Good Old World
when the struggle to get things is going to
take on a new, perhaps more bitter, phase.
The men who have carried the hard, un
pleasant burdens of the world learned, dur
ing the war, their power over the world.
They have learned from Russia that the
most strongly intrenched government can
not stand against them.
They have learned from England that
Labor can dictate to Cabinets; in America,
as Samuel Gompers says, they have made
in three years a generation of progress.
I do not see how any real lover of the
race can fail to find satisfaction in this
great forward movement of the common
The movement will have its excesses:
but has capitalism had no excesses? It
will frequently prove expensive : but so has
every previous regime.
My fear for the common man is not that
he will cost the world too much, but that,
when he gets what he wants, he will find
that he has still somehow failed of happi
I would have him study a little the
A Limousine and a Tub 205
strange case of Diogenes, and of the
Before he sets forth on his journey to
the top, I would have him cut out these
lines of Milton and paste them in his hat:
He that has light within his own clear breast
May sit in the center, and enjoy bright day;
But he that hides a dark soul and foul thoughts
Be-nighted wa^ks under the mid-day Sun ;
Himself is his o\n dungeon.
From the dungeons of poverty and hun
ger and want the common man is going to
be delivered : I would put him on his guard,
lest, in escaping from these, he be plunged
into the worse dungeon of spiritual death.
His mind is filled now with the thought
of a day when every one will have his own
I ask him to remember that a world in
which we all lived in tubs would be a first-
class world, if we all had the spirit of
And that where there is no vision the
people perish just as surely as where there
is no food.
DEMOCRACY IS A NEW SHOW,
AND EVERY CITIZEN IS THE
A VERY patriotic citizen came to me
during the war, much perturbed.
" These investigations in Washington
are outrageous," he exclaimed. " Sup
pose there have been mistakes; is that any
reason why we should advertise them to
" Is there any sense in crying from the
house-tops that we have only nine Brown
ing machine-guns, and that our men are
inadequately clothed and equipped? Such
matters ought to be kept secret."
And I remarked to him that in Germany
such matters were kept secret.
There are only two families living on the
world s Main Street, I said to him.
There is the Autocracy family, who keep
the front gate locked and the front curtains
drawn. The lawn looks tidy and the
Democracy Is a New Show 207
house is well kept; but no one knows
what s going on behind those curtains.
It may be only a friendly game of
pinochle: but it may be counterfeiting, or a
bomb plot, or murder.
And there is the Old Widow Democ
racy. Her lawn is covered with tin cans,
and the children are scrapping all over it,
and she does her washing right out on the
But she s in sight every minute, and she
has to be pretty honest, whether she wants
to or not.
One of the reasons we were fighting, I
said to him, was to make the Autocracy
family pull up those curtains, and bring
their corn-cob pipes and their laundry out
on the porch.
And while our boys were over in Au
tocracy s front yard, breaking the windows
and letting sunlight into the back rooms,
we didn t want anybody the President
or anyone else to be staying at home
and locking our doors or pulling our cur
Public criticism is always noisy, some-
208 It s a Good Old World
times unpleasant, and frequently mistaken:
but it is an inseparable feature of demo
cratic control. And, in the long run, it
works well even for the men who are
And now, my dear Morley [wrote Gladstone
to John Morley], there is one more thing I wish
to say to you: Take it from me that to endure
trampling on with patience and self-control is no
bad element in the preparation of a man for
walking firmly and successfully in the path of
great public duty. Be sure that discipline is full
It is a good thing also for business.
One of the great captains of industry of
the old school died a few years ago. A
little while before his death he attended a
meeting of the directors of one of the coun
try s largest industries. There he said
something like this :
" I am convinced that I have been
wrong, and that you younger men who
have stood for full publicity have been
right. I am too old now to change : but
if I had my life to live over again I would
take the public into my confidence straight
Most of all, publicity is a good thing for
In the first place, it is necessary to open up the
processes of our politics. They have been too
secret, too complicated: they have consisted too
much of private conference and secret under
standings. If there is nothing to conceal, then
why conceal it ? If it is a public game, then why
play it in private ? Publicity is one of the purify
ing elements of politics.
The gentleman who made these remarks
is now President of the United States
the same gentleman whom many tender
hearted people are seeking to shield from
the publicity in which he so thoroughly
Autocracy is a very old performance.
When the curtain of history rose six or
seven thousand years ago, kings were play
ing their part in the spot-light, and they
have been on the stage ever since.
Democracy is a new show, still in re
hearsal. Every individual citizen regards
210 It s a Good Old World
himself as the stage-manager, with full
liberty to shout directions at the actors, or
protest at the top of his voice that the
performance is rotten.
The result is noise and confusion; but
there is no doubt that gradually the show
is getting better, just the same.
IS YOUR CONVERSATION A
AS we rode up from Washington to
gether a man who is a personal
friend of President Wilson talked to me
" One thing that always impresses me,"
he said, " is the wonderful precision of his
speech. His mind seems to reach out and
grasp the needed word with unfaltering
accuracy. I have never known him to hes
itate for a word, or employ one that re
quired the slightest modification or expla
" I once asked him to what he attributed
" He answered that it was due to the
early training of his father.
" My father never allowed any mem
ber of his household to use an incorrect
expression, said the President. Any
212 It s a Good Old World
slip on the part of one of the children was
at once corrected; any unfamiliar word
immediately explained, and each of us en
couraged to find a prompt use for it in our
conversation so as to fix it in our mem
As we stepped off the train and walked
through the station, we passed a group of
smartly dressed young women. Their
conversation, as we caught it, was some
what after this fashion:
" Sure. I thought I d die."
" You don t mean it. Not re-eally."
" Sure I tell you. I thought I d die."
An unjust prejudice has grown up in
the world against the man who talks well,
and in favor of the wise-looking individual,
who sits stolid, saying nothing.
My observation is that, generally speak
ing, poverty of speech is the outward evi
dence of poverty of mind.
The individual whose communication is
confined to half a dozen worn expressions,
has a mind that is not working. It is
merely sliding along in well-oiled grooves.
Your Conversation 213
A mind constantly reaching out along
new paths of thought, will of necessity find
new language with which to clothe that
There is a certain New York business
man among my friends who makes it a rule
to ask every applicant for a position " Can
you write well? "
A strange question, one would think, to
put to a prospective elevator boy. Yet
the man has a reason for it.
" No man can write clearly," he says,
" who does not think clearly. I want to
see a man s mind at work before I give
him a place in my organization."
A mastery of good, clean-cut English is
possible to anybody.
One very good way to acquire it is by
reading aloud. Select some author whose
work is worth reading, and keep your mind
fixed not merely on the meaning of the
words but on the words themselves.
Another good exercise is the one that
Benjamin Franklin used. He would read
a page from some English classic, and then,
putting away the book, seek to reproduce it
214 It s a Good Old World
in writing. By comparing his own version
with the original, he learned wherein he
Emerson said that Montaigne s words
had so much vitality that if one were to cut
them they would bleed.
Daniel Webster used to study the dic
tionary as other men study the financial
It paid him ; it will pay you.
For good or ill, your conversation is
Every time you open your mouth you let
men look into your mind. Do they see it
well clothed, neat, businesslike?
Or is it slouching along in shoes run
down at the heel, with soiled linen and
frazzled trousers, shabbily seeking to
avoid real work?
AND A DOG RUNS OUT AND
STRANGE how a sound will some
times set the chords of memory to vi
It may be a woman s laugh, or a snatch
of song, or even the barking of a dog at
The other night I left the train two sta
tions away from home, and started to walk
the rest of the way across the hills. It
began to snow after a little. From the
houses along the road lights flickered
through the haze; and as I rounded a
curve, a little dog ran out and barked.
In an instant my mind leaped back
twenty years or more, to the days when I
carried a newspaper-route in Boston. I
remembered how long the way used to
seem > two miles out and two miles back
and how dark it was, in winter, when
the sun had gone. And how I hated one
newspaper that used to issue a great edi-
216 It s a Good Old World
tion of twenty-four pages on Saturday eve
nings. The editors must be heartless crea
tures, I thought to myself; surely they had
never been boys and compelled to travel
In a big house up on the hills, in the
district where rich men lived, there were
two dogs that every night barked at me.
" Oh, they won t bite," said the owner.
They bark, but they re perfectly good-
How serenely confident every man is
that his dog is perfectly good-natured!
Every night I had to gird up my cour
age to start out on that route, thinking
of those two dogs that would run out and
bark. I was just a little fellow, in short
pants, and the space between my knees
and my ankles seemed pathetically unpro
tected just made for dogs to bite.
The owner caught them snapping at me
one night; and I remember yet how he
laughed. It seemed to him a bully joke
a little boy worried by two big barking
I shall never forget that owner nor
A Dog Runs Out and Barks 217
the man whose house stood next to his.
It was the night before Christmas.
Snow was coming down, and it seemed
more dark than usual, and the papers were
heavy and the route more long.
I had just come out of the yard of the
man with the dogs, and as I stepped onto
the porch of the next house, suddenly the
door opened, and a big jolly-faced man
stood smiling in the lamplight.
" Hello, kid," he cried jovially. " I Ve
been waiting for you. Do you know what
day to-morrow is? "
" Yes, sir," I answered. " It s Christ
" Right you are," he shouted. " And
here s something from Santa Claus." He
opened his hand, and there was a big silver
I do not know his name; I have not seen
him in twenty years; but last night, walk
ing home in the snow, I remembered him
with a warm feeling around my heart.
And I fell to thinking that I must be
pretty nearly as big now as he was when
he gave me that dollar, and about as old.
And I wondered how I look to the kid
that brings my paper and the other kids I
meet, and whether I am the kind of man
that is always too busy to take time to be
kind to them or whether I am the kind
that they would sort of like to run into,
when it s cold, and the route is long, and
the burden is heavy.
And a dog runs out and barks.
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